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What Bull. Dubs should not tolerate Dollymount ban

DOLLYMOUNT Strand is to be car free.

The local authority claims that the move (below), brought in a couple of months ago, worked as a temporary measure and therefore should be made "long-term" basis.

Apparently one driver got their car stuck in soft sand and emergency services which needed to get to the driver couldn't make it because of the "chaotic" parking on the beach.

So get rid of the cars, goes the reasoning, and people will be able to enjoy the beach even more.

I'm sorry, but what complete bull.

The Bull Island is the only beach attached to any European capital.

As a Clontarf girl, I grew up with it. I caught pinkeens and crabs on it.

I built sandcastles worthy of architectural awards on it. Listened to terrifying stories of Curly's Hole, which, if you went even an inch out of your depth, would catch you and suck you down halfway to Australia.

I managed to do all that on a beach littered with chaotically parked cars.

Among these was our Simca, registration number MZA 794, which, like every other car, contained a bunch of children, a load of deckchairs, rolled up rugs, towels, swimsuits and caps, sandwiches, flasks and tubes of ointment to deal with whatever bit or burned us.

That's how families use beaches. That's how they have used beaches since cars were invented.

Indeed, cars are integral to Dollymount Strand: hundreds of northsiders learned to drive there, or on the Bull Wall.

This for the very good reason that if you were starting to cope with gear-changing, you didn't want to try it out on a road.


But Dollymount offered long broad empty stretches of hard sand where you could learn the basics - usually from your father - long before you tried out your new skills on the public road.

My own son learned to drive down there, when he was younger than most L-plate owners.

He was about six or seven when he learned about steering, sitting on his father's lap.

And if that puts the heart crossways in you, consider the case of my blind friend, whose wife one day heard him saying the thing he really resented about having no sight was that he could never learn to drive.

The next morning at dawn she put him in the car, brought him down to Bull Island and onto the beach, where she found a stretch of sand without a solitary walker on it.

He sat into the driver's seat and she taught him to drive.

Now, of course, we have to have rules, and teaching kids or blind adults to drive on a beach - even a deserted beach - probably breaks some rules somewhere.

But then, breathing in and out breaks some rules in these rule-dominated days, and that's not why the Council has decided to ban cars from the beach anyway.

The theory is that more people will have more fun in a safer environment.

Oh, yeah? Tell that to the mother of three kids faced with lugging chairs, nappy bags, drinks, towels, rugs and buggies through soft sand to find a place for the family while thinking about the process in reverse at the end of the day.

She'll tell you she'll stay at home.

In fact, that, according to a friend of mine, is what has already happened during the "temporary" ban on cars.

"I run there most mornings," he says, "and the number of people enjoying the beach has plummeted since this came in about two months ago."


This runner, who should in theory, welcome the wide open spaces created by the car-ban, regards it as an undemocratic invasion of Dubliners' rights: a recommendation made by gardai and adopted by the local authority against the unexpressed wishes of the overwhelming majority of the populace - who have not been consulted on it.

He's not wrong. On the other hand, the Gardai are sensitive to community preferences and the local authority likewise.

So if we Dubliners tell them we want the decision reversed, I'm confident that they'll reverse it and find a way to manage the chaotic parking.

They should do so. We owe it to future generations of Dubliners bound for Dollymount.