SOME of the traffic wardens who patrol Dun Laoghaire and enforce draconian parking laws are parking illegally in the town every day.
Last year, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council raised €6,225,334 in parking fees and fines, up 50 per cent on the previous year, and almost all the revenue came from hard-hit commercial areas of the Dublin suburbs like Dun Laoghaire and Blackrock.
While the general public has to pay €2 an hour, a council spokesman confirmed that a total of 225 spaces were available free to staff of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council -- including 60 spaces rented in Bloomfields Shopping Centre, 50 in Harbour Square beside the Town Hall and 115 spaces in the Town Hall itself in Dun Laoghaire.
Independent councillor Victor Boyhan, who elicited the total income, pay and display and fines figure from the council, said: "The amount of free spaces for council staff is a disgrace. The town is dying. Dun Laoghaire is on its knees and the people and traders have lost all confidence in its public administration."
Meanwhile, Dun Laoghaire resident Paul Howard told the Sunday Independent that he had counted a number of wardens' cars parked illegally. They place pieces of paper with the letters "DL", presumably for Dun Laoghaire, on their dashboards along with their work numbers.
Some leave their cars there all day while others drive off to other areas like Blackrock, Dalkey and Monkstown to issue tickets.
On Friday at 9.15am, there were a number of cars parked illegally in Clarinda Park near the offices of private company APCOA in Upper George's Street, which is hired by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.
At 9.25am, two wardens walked up to illegally parked cars and drove off.
A man who identified himself as the manager at the office, but who refused to give his name, said he could not comment about the illegal parking by APCOA staff.
Mr Howard said: "This town is on its knees. Three more shops are closing this month because their trade has been scared away and the council are mad. And these guys are parking here every day illegally.
"It's a disgrace. None of the councillors live here and very few of the staff. They are robbing us.
"A friend of my wife had three guards arrive at the house in Killiney to take her off to Mountjoy. The poor woman had just forgotten about the ticket. The guards told her husband they had 11 summonses to put people in prison."
Meanwhile, columnist and commentator John Waters has vowed to go to jail rather than pay a parking ticket he got for being a minute over the 15 minutes grace that is now allowed after a ticket runs out.
John Waters described the parking policy as "tyranny". He said: "How can you do business in Dun Laoghaire? You cannot decide how long a meeting will last. It is destroying social life. If I meet someone I can't start a conversation for fear of being fined. It is destroying social interaction.
"The town is reaching the point of critical mass where the time is coming where people will stop coming in. There are far too many shops closing.
"I paid my €2 and when I came back there was this ticket with the time 16 minutes over the hour. A man who I spoke to said the warden walked past the car and checked the time on the ticket, then came back when it was a minute over. That's three cents over."
For refusing to pay the €40 fine, he is due before Dun Laoghaire District Court on March 11 and could face imprisonment if he continues to refuse to pay.
Asked about the practice of wardens parking without paying, a council spokesman said: "Such an occurrence would be an unacceptable practice and in the event of this being reported to us, we will take it up with APCOA directly."