Councils ‘need to up their game’ for outdoor summer, says Harris

Large outdoor gatherings in Dublin, Galway and Cork were widely criticised last weekend.
Councils ‘need to up their game’ for outdoor summer, says Harris

Cate McCurry, PA

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has said some councils need to “up their game” in preparing for an outdoor summer and providing spaces for people to meet.

Mr Harris said a number of local authorities have not done a good job ahead of the reopening of society over the next few months.

He made the comments after the Office of Public Works (OPW) closed the Victorian Bandstand in St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, with fencing erected around the site on Wednesday.

The OPW said it closed the “vulnerable” historic feature to protect it from vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

“In order to protect the historic bandstand from any further damage, a decision was taken to erect fencing to protect the structure,” the OPW said.

Mr Harris said as outdoor dining reopens next week, there will be more places for people to meet.

“I think our councils really need to up their game in this regard, and we’ve seen some very good examples,” he said.

“I’ve seen, for example, in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, they seem to have actually done a very good job of preparing, some clearly haven’t.

“I do think we’re going to be at a different situation when the reopening of outdoor dining and outdoor pubs and bars starts from Monday.

“I think what happened last weekend, we had really good weather, we had lots of people who wanted to meet up and see people outdoors, they’ve been told outdoors was safer, and they didn’t have many places to go. That caused congregation.

“So rather than finger wagging, I think we have to look at how do we actually better prepare for that, how do local authorities better prepare, and I do think as we see more places open now, there will be more places for people to meet.”

The Government’s Covid-19 emergency powers have been rolled over until November after a vote in the Dail, by 73 votes to 68.

The legislation permits restrictions on social gatherings, travel and mask-wearing.

The Government’s three parties voted in favour of the extension, but opposition parties criticised the length of it.

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