— Criticism of stance on footpath parking goes beyond one party.
— Some councillors continue to defend parking on footpaths when it’s illegal.
— Letter from councillor claimed to contain misinformation.
A Dublin-based Labour Party councillor has said that residents who park their cars on footpaths need “to be protected” and claimed that “the militant wing of the Green Party has put a fatwa on me”.
Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour) said that criticism of her support of things like footpath parking was “fascist” behaviour. Cllr Freehill wants parking on footpaths legalised.
The issue was sparked off after the transport committee of the council voted to support clamping of cars parked on footpaths in residential areas — previously a semi-official blind eye was turned to illegal parking in such areas.
Criticism of her stance on footpath parking goes beyond one party and IrishCycle.com could not find any tweets which are similar to the level of abuse used by fascist groups tweeted to the councillor.
The footpath parking issue came to light recently when a letter from Cllr Freehill to residents surfaced on social media. It promised that the now successful Labour Dublin Bay byelection candidate Ivana Bacik “has agreed to fight your case [to park on footpaths] in the Senate, or the Dail if successful in the bye election”.
Disability campaign groups point out that footpath parking is a barrier to mobility independence and people who have sight or mobility requirements who are blocked by cars parked on footpaths.
At the latest Dublin City Council local area meeting for the South East Area, Cllr Freehill said: “I must say that the stuff that came up on social media makes me feel that the militant wing of the Green Party has put a fatwa on me. Because I have found that any time I take any of these issues up that they are off on social media.”
Cllr Freehill claimed that people have told her that they have been “written to” by “these people” telling them to have a go at her, but she did not give any clear examples of this or who was writing to who.
Cllr Freehill has previously objected to a walking and cycle route in her area stating that more public transport is needed first, but she has also recently objected to bus priority measures.
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At the local area meeting last week, she said that criticism of her amounted to “fascist” behaviour. The area committee chairperson, Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) intervened and asked her to withdraw the term ‘fascist’, which she did without apologising for its use.
Cllr Freehill took issue with a tweet from fellow local area councillor Cllr Carolyn Moore (Green Party), which said: “I have to say, my favourite bit of the Mary Freehill footpath parking letter that’s doing the rounds is where she blames Dublin Corporation for making the streets too narrow in the first place – in the early 1900s, when less than 50 cars were registered in the whole country.”
Referring to Cllr Moore, Cllr Freehill said: “She then makes a joke about me talking about narrow roads, she might be better employed in fact learning her political craft. She obviously didn’t know that there are minimum sizes and widths of roads, and that’s what I was referring to.”
Responding, Cllr Moore said: “What’s destructive and not very helpful in this conversation is writing to residents and willfully misinforming them about the nature of the report that was agreed.”
Cllr Moore said that residents were left under the impression that clamping of clamping of cars parked on footpaths in residential areas would start straight away when senior council officials stressed that it would be a more gradual process and different solutions would be looked at before clamping started.
“It [Cllrs Freehill’s letter] was cynical electioneering,” said Cllr Moore. “I don’t take kindly to the accusation that anybody from the Green Party wrote to anybody asking them to attack Mary Freehill on social media.”
“These things by the nature of the fact that they are publicly distributed find their way onto social media and then activist groups who involved and invested that our footpaths are kept clear for the people who need them quite rightly highlighted the fact that we have a councillor on this committee calling for people to be allowed to park on footpaths in certain circumstances,” said Cllr Moore.
Cllr Moore said that there are solutions to regularise parking without allowing parking on footpaths.
Cllr James Geoghegan (FG) and Cllr Anne Feeney (FG) doubted that there were solutions.
Cllr Feeney said: “In principle, yes, it makes sense that people should not be parked on footpaths and there should be adequate space for people with disabilities or buggies or whatever, that their movement should not be restricted by cars on paths, but, having said that, we have said numerous of occasions that we have an old city, narrow streets a lot of them… so, we have to face those realities.”
She said that there’s a number of streets where if cars park on the road, there’s no way other cars can fit by, and there’s streets where there isn’t free spaces on nearby streets.
Cllr Deirdre Conroy (FF) said that there are cases where requests for narrowing footpaths to be able to fit cars have not been accepted by the council, and said that people from other areas park on some of the narrow streets because its seen as free parking without a residents’ permit system in place.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) echoed Cllr Feeney and said that it is an old city and he said that “we cannot have one-size fits all” approach.
“Sometimes I think people think residents have no rights, that only the cause is right, only the campaign is right,” said Cllr Lacey. “There was a lot of sarcasm directed at the notion local agreements — but in a lot of local communities there is local agreement.”
Council official Gerry McNetagart said that he would be reluctant to reduce footpath widths, but said that officials would work with councillors to find solutions.
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