Dublin City’s chief executive waiting for lobby group’s report before deciding on transport plan

LONG READ: Dublin City Council’s chief executive, Richard Shakespeare, told councillors on Monday that he is awaiting the report commissioned by the Dublin City Centre Traders Alliance before making a decision on the Dublin City Centre Transport Plan.

Councillors were informed by email ahead of the meeting that the bus gate locations on the quays would be changed, and their operational times would be reduced from 24 hours to 7am to 7pm. A right turn on the O’Connell Bridge to Eden Quay would also be opened, allowing private traffic on it for the first time since Luas Cross City was opened (see further delays below).

It was also noted to councillors that one of the other main traffic management parts of the plan planned for this year, to stop private traffic from turning left from Westland Row into Pearse Street, will be deferred until 2025 due “to the nature of the civil engineering works requirements, which are more extensive than previously envisaged.”

On Monday, Shakespeare said that he, the council’s executive manager for traffic, Brendan O’Brien, and the NTA’s deputy chief executive, Hugh Creegan, were invited to a retail forum hosted by Emer Higgins, Minister of State with responsibility for business, employment, and retail, where they heard concerns from some retailers.

Minister for State Higgins came under significant criticism for her intervention in the plan, where she requested the council postpone it “until at least 2025.” The intervention was heavily criticised by councillors as well as by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, who said he supported the plan but that the issue was a council one to deal with; his position was supported by the new Fianna Fáil Minister for State James Lawless.

Shakespeare said the requested delay was until “March or April 2025”. He told councillors: “I indicated that I was at present waiting on an economic assessment from the Dublin City Centre Traders Alliance, that they’d commissioned a while ago and that I’d wait until I had received that before I made any decision on whether we’re going to change the implication dates which were set for August of this year.”

He added: “Just to clarify, the plan as presented last year was noted as opposed to being approved by the city council.”

A number of observers have remarked on this point as strange, especially given that councillors twice pushed aside motions aimed at delaying the plan, including by agreement and by a majority vote, and as reported by IrishCycle.com recently, the ‘Delivering for Dublin’ coalition agreement between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, and the Labour Party outlined that “The Active Travel Network and agreed transport plans will be safeguarded and implemented…”

Council officials were also previously at pains to highlight that the traffic plan is derived from targets councillors agreed to in the Dublin City Development Plan and is also supported by the Climate Action Plan councillors approved last year.

At last Monday’s meeting, Brendan O’Brien, the council’s head of traffic, said that the council continues to engage with disability persons’ organisations (DPOs), and the plan has been modified after consulting with these groups.

He noted that seven DPOs were contacted, only three have “really responded”, and two engaged on a higher level, namely, Physical Impairment Ireland (PII) and Voice of Vision Impairment. The latter group, Voice of Vision Impairment, holds the position that blue badge holders should be able to drive down some of the busiest pedestrian streets, such as Grafton Street and Henry Street.

He said there are concerns that disabled people would be unable to access areas on Bachelors Walk and Aston Quay or that blue badge holders being driven into the city centre would not be able to be dropped off outside certain buildings.

O’Brien said: “Under the road traffic regulations, when we make a restriction such as no straight ahead or no right turn, there are classes of vehicles we can allow, [for example] no right except buses, cyclists, taxis — they are all set out in the road traffic regulations and traffic signs manual however there’s no definition or class which allows for a restriction except blue badge holders.”

He said blue badge vehicles are treated differently in some other countries. They have flagged this issue to the Department of Transport, and the council will support such legal changes here in the longer term.

Speaking for the Fine Gael group on the council, Cllr Ray McAdam said he “does not favour any long delay or deferral” of the plan. But he said engagement with businesses should be intensified, that businesses viewed it as critical to have “a right hand turn onto O’Connell Bridge from the quays”, clarity on access for Guinness trucks and clarity around HGV bans within neighbourhoods which might be affected.

Cllr Paddy Monahan, speaking for the Social Democrats, said: “My mother was a wheelchair user; she had a disability. I think tweaking the regulations for blue badge holders is centrally a great idea, but I’d be very wary of people using people with disabled people as a Trojan Horse to oppose progress in this area.”

He said: “Driving into Dublin is a really bad idea and it has been for decades. There was no consultation and no agreement on letting Dublin become a car-clogged city; we just let it happen and accepted how things are… so, somehow, did we reach perfection? I don’t think so. Dame Street is a nightmare; easily a hundred people trying to cross at the bottom of George’s Street at any given time, waiting for the lights to change. People with disabled people, like my mother, and kids, all squashed to the side on a four-lane road in the city centre.”

He said his bus today was delayed “as always” by single-occupancy cars. He said shoppers and employees shouldn’t be conflated with cars as most people don’t drive into the city centre.

He said the plan was agreed after extensive consultation, and Minister Higgins is looking to kill the plan with “death by consultation”. He added: “We need to focus on moving people around the city and not cars.”

Cllr Daithi Doolan, the Sinn Fein leader on the council, said: “I too am surprised by this development, I too think it smacks of big business dictating to the city about how we do business — there was an open, transparent, inclusive consultation process and then we did our best to accommodate further engagement with the disbility sector and now we have big business putting the dead hand of bureaucracy attempting to unpack it.”

“That’s what’s happening here — it’s an unpacking of a plan that was noted and supported through the contribution of the comments of councillors here a number of months ago,” he said.

He said, “It also shows that the Government is in chaos on this issue, with one Minister at loggerheads with another Minister, and that is not doing this city any favours. It’s time the city stood up and said we agree with the plan; we want that plan because it makes the city safer, more accessible, and more sustainable.”

Cllr Doolan added: “If we allow big business to step in and undo it, they will be undoing the democracy in the city. So, I have grave concerns about what is happening.”

Cllr Feljin Jose, speaking for the Green Party group, said: “The council already agreed to the plan, and we have a very extensive public consultation on the plan.”

He said: “Dublin needs this. I got the bus from Phibsborough to Rathmines the last week and it took about 45 minutes from one canal to the other — that’s not sustainable, that’s not good for us, for jobs.”

Cllr Jose said that non-24 hour restrictions are more complicated and harder to enforce. He added: “Push ahead and we’d be opposed to any delays.”

Cllr Deirdre Heney, speaking for the Fianna Fáil group on the council, said she was pleased to hear that there are talks ongoing with disabled people.

Cllr Mannix Flynn, speaking for the independent technical group, claimed “we did not vote on this” and said that information was put out by a Minister. But councillors moved twice against motions seeking to delay the plan — in the first case by agreement and at another meeting by a majority vote.

Cllr Flynn said that he is glad that the chief executive is holding off to see the economic impact report from the lobby group before making a decision and, in the same breath, before seeing the report, he repeated a claim that “they are alleging there would be massive job losses etc.”.

Cllr Flynn viewed an attempted interruption by a Green Party councillor as “Green bullying”, and he then went onto interrupt another Green Party councillor when they were speaking.

Cllr Darragh Moriarty (Labour) said: “We’re deeply concerned by any attempt to derail this plan at the last minute. We’re in July now, and the plan is supposed to take place next month, and we have businesses coming out of the woodwork jumping up and down screaming.”

“I’m equally concerned at any economic analyses carried out on behalf of this business group because anybody can commission anybody what they want to hear already. So, if we’re talking the word of this business alliance group to tell us there’s going to be an apocalypse in Dublin if we stop cars on the quays, they are going to tell us that there’s going to be an apocalypse and the sky is going to fall in,” he said.

“I’d disregard whatever is said by their off-the-shelf economist,” he said.

He said the plan is about getting people to spend time in the city centre and “cutting off people using the city [centre] as a rat run…. that will get more people spending more time in our bars, in our shops, in our restaurants, that’s what we want to see Dublin thrive.”

Cllr Michael Pidgeon (Green) said: “Just a single point that I’d ask the chef executive to note and reflect on is from five groups here representing over two-thirds of councillors, 42 councillors by my count, five of those groups said explicitly that we should not delay this.”

He added: “So, I think it’s safe to say that you have a strong two-thirds majority and a strong backing from the elected side of this council to tell people who want to interfere and stop this that we’re going ahead with this.”

Cllr Catherine Stocker said: “We’re constantly told that we cannot implement this plan because we have such poor public transport, but the reality is that this is a chicken and egg situation. We cannot improve what is the current primary method of public transport, which is the bus, without reallocating road space.”

Cllr Colm O’Rourke (Fine Gael) said that communications must be clearer to both the councillors and the public and that frustration can be caused by a lack of clear communications.

Shakespeare said he would weigh up all the points raised. He added, “Lucky for me, I get to play Solomon.”

Cllr Donna Cooney (Green) asked the chief executive to include international research on lower-traffic city centres and their economic impact.

What’s the updated plan for the quays?

The following is an outline of the plan for bus gates near O’Connell Bridge on the north and south quays in the words of officials as presented in a note to councillors:

North Quays:

  • The bus gate will move further east to O’Connell Bridge. It was originally planned that vehicles must turn left at Jervis Street, now all vehicles can travel as far as the junction of O’Connell Street / Bachelors Walk. This now means that all of Bachelors Walk is accessible and all vehicles will be able to travel along Bachelors Walk and turn left into O’Connell Street allowing access into the O’Connell Street, North Lotts and Parnell Street areas. The current disabled bay will also remain accessible.
  • The straight ahead movement Bachelors Walk to Eden Quay will be for public transport, taxis and cyclists only. The right turn movement to O’Connell Bridge will continue to be public transport, taxis and cyclists only as it is at present.
  • Thus general traffic can use Bachelors Walk to access the length of Bachelors Walk, but must turn left at O’Connell Bridge.
  • In order to facilitate access to Eden Quay the right turn from O’Connell Bridge to Eden Quay will be reintroduced. This was removed as part of the Luas Cross City works and is currently only available for public transport and cyclists. By reintroducing this right turn all parts of Eden Quay will be accessible for private cars and deliveries.
  • Timed operation – the hours of operation will be reduced from 24 hours to 7am to 7pm Monday to Sunday. Outside these hours the restrictions will not be in operation and vehicles can travel along all areas of the north quays.

South Quays:

  • All Vehicles can turn left from Burgh Quay to D’Olier Street.
  • All vehicles can turn right from Burgh Quay to O’Connell Bridge, thus allowing access to the right turn to Eden Quay but also O’Connell Street as before.
  • The straight ahead movement from Burgh Quay to Aston Quay will be public transport, taxis and cyclists only.
  • The left turn from Westmoreland Street to Aston Quay will be public transport, taxis and cyclists only.
  • The left turn from Westmoreland Street to Fleet Street will be for deliveries and access only.
  • Access to the Temple Bar area for deliveries etc. will be from the Westmoreland Street turn to Fleet Street, as will access to Fleet Street carpark, the disabled bay on Aston Quay or to be dropped off on Aston Quay, this will be possible via Fleet Street. There will be just 50m of Aston Quay where a vehicle cannot access at the junction of Aston Quay/ Westmoreland Street
  • Timed operation – similarly the north quays, the hours of operation will be reduced from 24 hours to 7am to 7pm. Outside of these hours the restrictions will not be in operation and vehicles can travel all areas of the South quays.


  1. Why the 7am to 7pm? Is this plan about making the city a safe and inviting place to be in, or is it purely about traffic management of motor vehicles? Seems to be the latter.
    From my experience of 7am to 7pm bus lanes, the safety of bike users and pedestrians falls dramatically in these hours as motorists use the less trafficked hours to speed in these zones, to race the red lights etc.

    Utterly disheartening to see the level of watering down before implementation. When are we ever going to try a plan, and then adjust as necessary rather than hamstring it at birth.

    • I agree. This is a very poor show. Make the plan as ambitious as possible, implement, then refine as needed in response to real issues, not second-guessing. This will water down the effect, create unintended consequences and be very painful to refine at a later stage.

  2. Should we be taking feedback from an opaque vested interest group? I’ve not been able to find any website or list of membership for them.

  3. Thanks to Cian’s urging, I wrote in to Mr Shakespeare last night. Please do the same if you’re annoyed about this. Great to hear the sustainability groups are requesting an urgent meeting.


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