Mr. Patrick O’Donovan T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), has called on the public to act with care, and visitors to heritage sites such as St Stephen’s Green, to respect this important historic heritage site.
The Minister made the appeal following scenes in the Dublin park yesterday afternoon, when in a desperate attempt to limit gatherings, the bandstand was fenced off just two days beforehand. Only for a group of people gained access to the Victorian bandstand. The fencing was done for health and safety reasons and in order to assess the fragile historic structure following incidents of reckless anti-social behaviour in this location over the previous days
But with mixed messaging and mixed actions from councils, T.Ds and Ministers. The scenes pictured a number of days ago, were to be expected.
Minister O’Donovan acknowledged that: “As a society, we have all endured a huge amount in the past months and we are understandably eager to enjoy the outdoors now that brighter days have arrived.”
“However, this is no excuse for damaging historic structures and displaying reckless behaviour as we have witnessed yesterday and in the past days at the bandstand in St Stephen’s Green. Covid-19 is still circulating in the community and to protect the progress we have made, basic health measures still apply outdoors, including avoiding crowds and keeping your distance.”
Minister O’Donovan concluded:
“We want visitors to enjoy the beautiful surrounds of the park this weekend, but we appeal to the public to respect this important heritage site and its historic features, to be mindful of other visitors in the park and to respect our OPW staff. The Green is an oasis in the city centre and I would ask you to help us keep it that way so everybody can enjoy it.”
The Limerick Minister’s role as Minister in the Office of Public Works, is to protect and preserve Ireland’s national heritage for this and future generations. Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green is a National Monument in the offices care, which contains a number of important historic sculptures and features, including the Victorian bandstand.
The bandstand became a place where groups were crowding in, oblivious to public health guidelines and social distancing, and posing a risk to themselves and others by climbing the slender steel supports that hold the bandstand’s roof. To prevent accidents and to assess the bandstand’s structural integrity, the OPW took the decision to fence off the historic bandstand. But the Dept did note that the area fenced off represents approximately 0.05% of the park’s 22 acres, all of which continue to remain open to the public for recreational purposes. But the image of fencing off portions in a public park, was only going to have one sort of reaction, build it, and they will come.
Throughout lockdown, the OPW have said they have kept the parks and gardens it manages in cities and the country open wherever it was possible – including Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green – providing important amenities for citizen’s wellbeing in a difficult time. Since the careful and gradual easing of restrictions in late April, the OPW has been able to open more historic heritage sites and has actively incentivised people to come and enjoy them by waiving any admission fees where they applied before at our heritage sites. They say they are working together with the Department of Arts, Tourism, Culture and Arts to facilitate test concerts in two of the OPW’s parks in June, and many of our sites are offering exhibitions and are planning events to contribute towards an enjoyable summer for locals and visitors in a safe environment.
This fencing incident will be a misguided step, and a not easily forgotten one, in a time where the trust between the officials, in slowly but surely easing the island back into normality, with the public, that with incidents like these, will have growing concerns and legitimacy ,that such trust is only a one way street.