Noise pollution levels 'will turn Irish city centres into ghost towns'
Irish city centres will be left as 'ghost towns' inhabited only by single people unless spiralling levels of noise pollution are tackled.
Environmental campaigners are now demanding that major Irish cities outside Dublin - including Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford - draw up special noise regulations to protect city centre residents and make them more family-friendly.
Irish resident and tenant associations also want specific legislation introduced to cover noise pollution.
Gardaí admitted it is notoriously difficult to deal with noise complaints because of the lack of specific legislation.
There have also been problems over whether incidents are the responsibility of local authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the gardaí.
City centre residents now want a range of specific noise pollution controls.
These range from designated time periods when deliveries can be made, an obligation on business owners to attend to alarms within a set time frame and a crackdown on all noise sources from 4am until 7am.
One Cork city resident and businessman, Seamus O'Connell, said Irish cities needed to follow the lead of European counterparts - where the rights of city centre residents rank alongside those of businesses.
Mr O'Connell, a TV chef who operates the award-winning Ivory Tower restaurant, said life is being made increasingly difficult for families in Irish cities.
"It is getting to the point where my children can't live here anymore," he said.
"There seems to be zero consciousness of families living in the city centre."
Mr O'Connell said that noise levels are so high around the Oliver Plunkett Street property where he lives that he was forced to soundproof its rooms.
However, noise levels can still reach such a pitch at around 4am that his family can be kept awake by the vibrations.
"It is far too disruptive. Buskers can often be heard playing in the city centre as late as 4am. Amplifiers should be banned, because there is absolutely no justification for them," he said.
Some councils, including Dublin and Fingal, have taken steps to crack down on the issue. Dublin City, Fingal and South Dublin councils operate specific air quality and noise pollution units.
Enforcement of noise pollution issues falls either to the planning department of the authority involved, or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Gardaí generally only become involved when there is concern over a public disturbance.
While no decibel levels are specified in law, a noise that is deemed to be a persistent nuisance or annoyance to locals can trigger a formal warning - or even district court action.
However, irregular noise sources - such as deliveries, buskers, random parties or even business owners who fail to attend to alarms - effectively fall outside those controls.
Council air quality control units do not deal with noise relating to traffic, aircraft, dogs barking, public transport or outdoor beer gardens and smoking areas either.