By Sean Moriarty
Elected members of Killarney Municipal District remain divided on the subject of permanently pedestrianising Plunkett Street.
In March 2018 it was agreed by the then elected Council to permanently pedestrianise the street.
Some councillors see the move as a prelude to further pedestrianisation in the town, with Mayor Michael Gleeson saying: “Killarney is 40 years behind the times when you look at other European cities”.
However, opponents to the current situation, not to mind future plans, say it is having a detrimental effect on business and the current plans needs to be reversed.
The row is ongoing since the election of the new Council in May.
At the Council’s September meeting, a motion to have second public consultation was overruled. It was felt at the time that having a second consultation would delay further progress but there were also concerns that a full report being prepared by the officers of the Council was not made available to the meeting.
The report, prepared by officer Eileen O’Donoghue, was presented at this week’s district meeting. It was part of wide ranging report into traffic management and the development of the public realm in the town. It included proposals to develop the laneways off Killarney’s main streets, which in turn, would encourage more use of peripheral car parks which could potentially pave the way for further pedestrianisation in the town centre.
Ms O’Donoghue spoke to several businesses in the town centre and the Council received 89 submissions on the proposals.
The report stated: ‘The general consensus was positive towards night time pedestrianisation, and the atmosphere and vibrancy it created in the town’.
The report highlighted five observations; impact on traffic flows in the town centre, confusion regarding the operation of the scheme, the impact it had on businesses outside the scheme, delivery difficulties and aesthetics of the area.
It was this very part of the report that, surprisingly, united elected members’ opinion, but not for the reasons the Council had hoped for.
The unification occurred when councillors were voting on a proposal to create a pedestrian friendly zone between Casey’s Corner and College St which would extend the scope of the current zone.
Every councillor present was adamant the full details of the 89 observations should have been presented to the meeting and not just the five observations.
“I vehemently oppose any attempt to end night time pedestrianisation,” said Cllr Niall Kelleher. “But we can’t vote on five points out of 89 (submissions).”
Precedent in previous similar votes shows that all such missions are made available ahead of voting.
“We should be able to see all submissions in their entirety,” said Cllr Maura Healy Rae. “The five points are perceived by the Council. We, as members, need to have seen and read them before we make a decision.”
Cllr Donal Grady opposed Cronin’s motion but backed calls for the additional information to be made available.
“It is incomplete,” he said. “We don’t have all the submissions.”
Cllr Marie Moloney said the issue is not going away.
“I ask all submissions to be brought before us.”
Cllr Niall ‘Botty’ O’Callaghan, is against the current system on Plunkett St. His family run the Failte Hotel on College St. He was disappointed the motion went to debate stage without the 89 submissions being made available.
“I represent the businesses and make no secret my mother owns a business here,” he said. “But that was a waste of 45 minutes of my life. There has to be a plan and this is what I am saying all along. In four months-time this will be before the Council again.”
Every councillor praised the work and effort of Ms O’Donoghue in the preparation of the document.
She explained that difficulty in interviewing business owners on one topic could often lead to other issues coming up.
“In talking to businesses, 90 percent are happy with night time pedestrianisation, the concern is day time pedestrianisation,” she said.
Senior council officials confirmed to the meeting that the reason the 89 submissions were not made public were connected with GDPR concerns.