Friday 23 August 2019

WATCH: Protesters block traffic onto Dublin street in demand for fewer cars to tackle air pollution

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Environmental and transport groups blocked off vehicular access to Dublin’s South William Street on today in protest over air pollution.

Dublin Cycling Campaign, Dublin Commuter Coalition and the Irish Pedestrian Network, along with Extinction Rebellion activists, blockaded both ends of South William Street as they sought action on the pollution of Dublin’s air.

Participants, wearing anti-pollution masks used tape and cones to prevent all traffic, other than those using parking facilities in businesses on the street, from entering.

Speaking on the temporarily pedestrian street, Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe, said that the demonstration was a showcase of what Dublin would be like if cars were allowed on fewer of its streets.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to say, ‘look what some of our streets might be like if we took the traffic out’,” he said.

“I think particularly here in Dublin 2, there’s a real opportunity with these narrow streets to look quite carefully at taking traffic out of certain sections. There’s a little bit of breathing space and hopefully an improvement in air quality and a little bit of freedom for children and others as a result.

“10,000s of people live in the city and as the number of people living here increases, they’re much more concerned about air quality, about public open space and for far too long we’ve given this street to the car rather than claiming it back for the people.”

The demonstration comes after new data from the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that Dublin’s level of air pollution regularly exceeds that deemed safe by the EU.

It is estimated by the EPA that 1,510 people suffer premature deaths attributed to air pollution annually in Ireland. Speaking at the road closure, Janet Horner from Dublin Cycling Campaign said that the government is “absolutely not” doing enough to reduce air pollution and combat climate change.

“We have a public health crisis, we have a climate crisis and we have a safety crisis on our streets,” she said, “and there is sensible joined-up thinking that can take place including reducing the amount of traffic that is coming through our cities and we’re not doing it, the government are not willing to take those steps.

“Toxic air is claiming over a thousand lives a year in Ireland and on top of that we have the traffic deaths that are contributed to from letting cars have such a dominant place in our city centre.

“We have reached EU levels of air pollution and we are at a very dangerous level, so we are risking the lives of people, particularly with asthma and children, and those who are older and more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses that come about from air pollution.”

This protest comes as the council plan to pedestrianize College Green between 7am and 7pm on Sunday, July 21, July 28, and August 4.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section