Taoiseach launches Dublin city task force

Mike Finnerty 15 May 2024
O’Connell Street will fall under the remit of the new task force (photo via Jonathan Baker)

Fine Gael’s plans to develop a Dublin task force have been met with a mixed reaction.

Taoiseach Simon Harris met with Fine Gael members of Dublin City Council over the May Bank Holiday weekend to discuss party plans for a task force in Dublin.

Harris said that since the Covid-19 pandemic, the “social and cultural character” of Dublin has changed and that the city needed a change in governance style.

Former An Post CEO David McRedmond has been tasked with leading the task force, with Harris also taking part in the day-to-day running of the task force.

RTÉ reported that the task force will be briefed with proposing recommendations to improving public access and safety in the city to Government, who will then act on those recommendations.

Designation and improvement of cultural spaces, beefing up public transport and tackling anti-social behaviour and littering will also fall under the remit of the task force.

The task force will also consist of members of the Gardaí, Dublin City Council, and the National Transport Authority among others.

Fine Gael leader on Dublin City Council James Geoghegan said the task force was “long overdue.”

“It is something that is welcomed by management in Dublin City Council, and it will provide the level of focus that is needed to effect real change to our city.”

 North Inner City councillor Ray McAdam welcomed the establishment, saying it will “provide an opportunity for a whole of Government approach to tackling the challenges faced by city centre communities and businesses.”

 “Fine Gael Councillors have long argued that this type of approach is needed in order to reimagine our City Centre as a vibrant and dynamic city and one that is safe and secure for all.”

Dubbing the city centre “the engine room”, McAdam said “we must act to protect it, better maintain it and through the work of the task force, we will strengthen it.”

 European candidate Regina Doherty said “Dublin city centre should be a dynamic and welcoming place for residents, commuters, and visitors and one that offers a great quality of life” but conceded that has not been the case in recent times.

Despite mixed signals from the coalition parties about Dublin having an election on a directly-elected mayor during the lifetime of this government, the Taoiseach said plans to hold the vote before the next general election were not on the docket.

He said that the remaining lifetime of the government would be focused on “daily delivery of practical measures that can make a difference for people in their lives.”

Limerick’s vote for a directly-elected mayor on the same day as June’s local and European elections will be a “pathfinder” said Minister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien.

Fine Gael establishing a Dublin city task force despite being in power since 2011 has led to bemusement from opposition parties.

Fianna Fáil Senator Mary Fitzpatrick said, “safety, cleanliness and liveability are the main issues that this new task force must tackle if it is to give our city centre the meaningful change it needs.”

She said that cleanliness was a major, yet practical issue that the task force could address.

“It is vital that the task force assigns public domain officers to specific areas in the city centre who report daily on the number and location of tents, illegal dumping, drug dealing, dangerous dogs without leads or muzzles and people begging in their assigned area.”

She said that the task force should push for a system of daily waste collection coupled with street sweeping and regeneration projects such as the fruit and vegetable market, doing up Moore Street and completing works on the flats on Domincik Street.

 “The establishment of this task force is something to be welcomed; the important thing now is that ?it puts these recommendations into place,” she said.

 Social Democrats’ European candidate Sinéad Gibney noted that local TD Gary Gannon has been calling for the establishment of a task force, or a directly-elected mayor, since his election to the Dáil in 2020.

“It’s a pity that Fine Gael are only taking his proposal on board in the dying months of this Government,” she said.

“The Government’s belated recognition that Dublin needs a dedicated task force must be matched with decisive action to address the many issues facing our city.”

She said that Dublin must look to other European cities for advice and inspiration of how to tackle issues that are prevalent across other major European cities.

“A recent conference of the European Forum for Urban Security discussed the need for stronger democracy at a local level to help develop sustainable, safe cities. This new task force should include the voices of our citizens, who know our city best and badly need reasons to fall in love with Dublin again,” she said.

Speaking to The Journal, McRedmond said “there is no great surprise that the city needs a task force and to make sure that we can actually accelerate to a position whereby we restore what was there and then hopefully plan better for the future.”

He said it was “very clear” to everybody that the Dublin “is not as we would want it to be.”

The announcement that former McRedmond will play a major part in the task force has been criticised by Labour Senator Marie Sherlock.

Sherlock pointed to McRedmond’s stint as An Post CEO coinciding with the closures of An Post offices both north and south of the Liffey. 

She asserted that under his remit, MacRedmond spearheaded the “contracting out of services  and the sale of public buildings.”

“An interesting choice for Government in their effort to ‘restore’ Dublin,” she remarked.

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