Activists take over Liffey Street to highlight air pollution problem

Published by Niall Sargent on

August 31st, 2019

Activists are currently blocking Lower Liffey Street and preventing access to motor traffic in a bid to highlight the capital’s transport-linked air pollution problems.

The organisers said that the campaign aims to highlight Ireland’s “extremely poor record” on air pollution and to demonstrate the benefits of opening up streets to be enjoyed by people.

The Streets Are For People movement – made up of Dublin Cycling Campaign, Dublin Commuter Coalition, the Irish Pedestrian Network, and Extinction Rebellion Ireland – also blocked South William Street in July.

The campaign chose Lower Liffey Street as Dublin City Council is developing a plan to create a pedestrian plaza there. The plan is due to go before the council next week. A traffic study for the project found that 32,000 pedestrians use the street daily compared to 1,000 motor vehicles.

Neasa Hourigan, founder of the Irish Pedestrian Network and Green Party Councillor for Dublin City, said that the campaign wants to see decision-makers prioritise public places for people and not cars.

Janet Horner of the Dublin Cycling Campaign said that citizens in our cities are “being choked by cars”, with the most vulnerable in society often the hardest hit. People with asthma, as well as children and the elderly, are typically more susceptible to adverse health effects of air pollution.

“This is a public health emergency and we need to take immediate action to reduce motor traffic and to create clean air zones throughout the city. People have a right to clean air,” Ms Horner said.

Dublin Fire Brigade stuck in traffic on Capel St, Co Dublin Photo: Peter Murphy
Dublin Fire Brigade stuck in traffic on Capel St, Co Dublin Photo: William Murphy

Transport emissions

Transport is the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions in Ireland, accounting for 39 per cent of the share in 2017.

Emissions in the sector are rising fast, and are projected to grow until at least 2022, even with relatively high fuel prices and more electric vehicles on the streets as proposed in the Government’s new climate plan.

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels in areas of the capital have exceeded EU limits. Pollution hotspots include the M50 motorway, the entrance to and exit from the Dublin Port Tunnel, and certain city centre streets.

Air pollution is estimated to cause the premature death of over 1,500 Irish people every year, according to the European Environment Agency. The Times recently reported that the number of premature deaths caused by NO2 pollution may be higher than previously thought.

Central Statistics Office data on air quality released earlier this week shows that Ireland continues to perform poorly compared to our European neighbours, ranking worst for NO2 and non-methane volatile organic compounds.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London