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Protest against Depedestraianisation of Sligo's O'Connell Street

category sligo | environment | news report author Wednesday November 11, 2009 00:55author by Aisling Ryan - O'Connell Street Sligo Campaignauthor email sligoactivism at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

Call Out for Support for Street Demonstration against Depedestraianisation of Sligo's O'Connell St

Sligo's elected representatives have ignored the majority of public opinion and have voted to reopen O'Connell Street to traffic. What can we do??
O'Connell Street Festival
O'Connell Street Festival

On Monday November 2nd, the Sligo Borough Councillors made a decision to remove all mention of the Pedestrianisation of O'Connell Street from the 2010-2015 Sligo Environmental Development Plan. This was in the face of massive public protest. The Councillors made this decision as public representatives and claiming it was in the public interest. Sligo's O'Connell St was pedestrianised three years ago and is very much a public space with cafe's and bars putting tables on the street and festivals and cultural events taking place all year around. Reopening the street to traffic would be a huge blow to the culture of the town.

This decision has ignored the majority of submissions made during the consultation period into the planning process:
- 60 submissions opposing the removal of the pedestrianised street
- one submission was signed by 2850 persons, as opposed to two submission supporting the opening of pedestriansation street to traffic signed by 100 people. This constitutes a 96.5% majority.

This decision bypassed the legal consultation process. Sligo Borough Councillors, including the Mayor of Sligo, Cllr Jimmy McGarry, announced publicly that the decision to open O’Connell Street to traffic was already made. In the September 9th issue of the Irish Times, the Mayor is quoted as saying “It’s all systems go, all green lights,” ("said Mayor of Sligo, Cllr Jimmy McGarry"). “The street will be open to traffic on December 9th”. This defies the legal planning process under the 2000 Planning Act. Therefore the decision and proposed Development Plan made on November 2nd does not constitute legal process and defies the public’s right to due consultation and transparency on this matter. This is a clear violation of the Planning Act and has eroded the citizens' faith in public consultation. The Borough Councillors have repeatedly failed to provide any valid argument or professional reports justifying removing O'Connell Street as a pedestrianised zone. They have also failed to provide any documented evidence of significant citizen support for this unpedestrianisation.

Sligo's citizens, the Sligo Chamber of Commerce and traders on O'Connell Street are currently seeking the support of Minister for the Environment John Gormley to overturn this decision, which was taken illegally, against the Sligo Development Plan. Although the planned date to reopen the street is early December the Councillors plan on starting work immediately. While waiting on Minister Gormley to intervene the committee assembled to protest the depedestrianisation are seeking the support of people willing to sit out in the street to prevent works taking place.

We're looking for people who may be able to come to Sligo at a couple of days notice for a few hours to sit in on a rotation basis. We're not sure at this moment when the work might start so are unable to provide details of when bodies are needed but if you email the following address we will contact you as soon as we know where and when! The coordination contact email is sligoactivism@gmail.com.

Related Link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Walking-Down-OConnell-Street-Sligo/173731163691
author by Face Offpublication date Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Think Twice!

Caption: The Truth about Facebook


Related Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B37wW9CGWyY
author by Tpublication date Thu Nov 12, 2009 17:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is also a report in the Irish Times on this issue at: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0518/1....html

Details of the Sligo and local environs development plan can be found here: http://www.sligococo.ie/sedp/

author by M. McLoughlinpublication date Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:18author email mnmcloughlinsligo at gmail dot comauthor address Sligoauthor phone Report this post to the editors


I live in Sligo and I have been watching events regarding O’Connell Street. The issue isn’t about pedestrianization. In my view its about power and its about powerful vested interests in Sligo.

Since the Council voted to open the street to one lane of traffic, the O’Connell Street Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce have organized a sustained campaign against the councilors.

The County Manager supported the view of the Chamber of Commerce and he refused to implement the decision of the elected council and councilors were then forced to issue a directive to him under the local government act.

The County Manager and his officials and the Chamber of Commerce want to keep O’Connell Street closed so as pressure would be placed on councilors to support the managers proposal for an eastern bridge and approach roads. The people of the east ward are corralled as a result of O’ Connell street being closed off.

The County Manager, the Chamber of commerce and the speculators are angry because councilors supported the people of the local community and opposed the Eastern bridge proposal.

I have mixed views about O’Connell Street. It’s a great place for events. But since it was first closed off no improvements and no money was spent on it. There were just a few iron bars placed on the road on each end of the street. In the intervening time people in the east ward have suffered. My brother spends an additional 15 to 20 minutes in his car going to work each day since O’Connell Street closed. So the O’Connell street issue cannot really be taken in isolation.

If it’s a choice between supporting the Chamber of Commerce, the County Manager and business interests on one hand and the elected councilors on the other hand I have to side with the councilors. (What I find especially interesting about this issue is the fact that councilors of all political persuasions, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein, Independent Socialist, are all standing up to the Chamber of Commerce and the County Manager)

While I disagree with particular decisions councilors have taken over the years, they at least are accountable and if we are not happy with their decisions we can vote them out of office.

author by Marty O'Dpublication date Sat Nov 14, 2009 13:48author address Sligoauthor phone Report this post to the editors


I fully agree with M Mcloughlin, the Chamber of Commerce and their sidekicks have controlled things in Sligo for much too long. Is it true that a Communications/PR company from Dublin or Tipperary has been brought in to orchestrate the O’ Connell street campaign on their behalf?

author by SEAMUSpublication date Mon Nov 16, 2009 00:10author address MOHILLauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Aisling Ryan states “Sligo Borough Councillors made a decision to remove all mention of the Pedestrianisation of O'Connell Street from the 2010-2015 Sligo Environmental Development Plan.”

T has provided us with a link to the plan and I have looked at the plan on the Council website and it states:

“It is the objective of Sligo Borough Council to:
Pedestrianise O’Connell Street when the necessary funding to cover the costs of the pedestrianisation and enhancement of the street is provided by Government or other sources, and when the Borough Council by resolution deems it appropriate.”

Why is Ms Ryan telling us that councillors made a decision to remove all mention of the pedestrianisation of O’Connell street from the plan?

author by ned greenpublication date Mon Nov 16, 2009 21:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The vast majority of people living in the east ward welcome the proposed reopening of O,Connell St.They have been seriously inconvenienced since its closure,its higly unlikely that a n east link bridge will ever be built, due to the present economic situation.Anyway, they would only accept a bridge that does not infringe on the rights of the Martin Savage residents, and the continued use of the Racecourse as a Green Belt and Recreational Amenity.

author by brianpublication date Wed Nov 18, 2009 17:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Jimmy is currently on George Hooks show on Newstalk.George is pushing the County Managers/Chamber of Commerce line supported by waffler Jude Devins calling for O,Connell St to remain closed.Fair play to Jimmy he stood his ground and he baboozled George as to why the Corporation voted to reopen the street.

author by rhonapublication date Sat Nov 21, 2009 13:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

George Hook called the Mayor of Sligo Cllr Jimmy Mc Garry a muppet on his radio show last wednesday,I think George should apologise as he has insulted the office of Mayor and also the people of Sligo.Jimmy is a first class Mayor and public representative,a man of the people and will no doubt make an excellent TD for the Labour Party in Sligo/Nt Leitrim.

author by North ward residentpublication date Mon Nov 30, 2009 22:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As a person living in the North Ward of Sligo and who atrtends The Avolon Centre at St Annes for a number of clubs a week l have been totally in convienienced by the closing of O Connell St to traffic l have to leave for an club alot earlier also arrive home a good 20 minutes later than l would normally have to do , l say fair dos to the 11 councillors who voted to reopen O Connell St and are doing what the people who voted for them want .
Jude Devins is only there for the Chamber of Conneerce and people will remember this come Election time again we need councillors who will back the people who elected them and not go running to the chamber of commerce. !
Thank goodness common sense has prefailed and we will have a free flow of traffic at the busiest time of the year . !

author by Denisepublication date Mon Nov 30, 2009 22:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's actually a united front, people from all different sectors of Sligo community that are trying to keep the street pedestrianised, including people and groups from the East Ward.

Councillors and Mayor failed to appear today to support their reasons for opening O'Connell Street next week.

They failed to acknowledge the public consultation process, the Mayor dissed the public petition live on air, and have ignored experts and consultants in the area of town planning.

author by TheQ47 - No political or organisational affiliationspublication date Mon Nov 30, 2009 23:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

According to George Hook on NewsTalk this evening "Nowhere else is local democracy under as much threat as it is here in Sligo".

I'm from the East Ward originally (although I no longer live there) and I think O'Connell St. should stay as it is. The main reasons the council have for opening the street to traffic as far as I'm concerned are to try and please those residents of the East Ward who objected to the Eastern bridge (the plans for which the council themselves blocked) and secondly, to get one over on the county manager. Many of the councillors have said that they believe an unelected county manager should not be responsible for such decisions.

There is certainly a problem with traffic in Sligo, but I don't think opening O'Connell St will really help that. I think other options could be explored, such as opening Bridge St to two-way traffic. There may be some planners who can show me the reasons why this wouldn't work, but there are other options besides opening the only space that people have in Sligo to walk freely. I'm in town most days, and regularly with my children, and it's fantastic that we can walk freely in 1 small area of the town, side-by-side, buggy and all, without fear of being run over, fumes from cars, Etc., Etc.

I think the decision to depedestrianise O'Connell St. is a retrograde step, that will not help Sligo to move forward in any way. In fact, "depedestrianise" isn't even a word, it doesn't exist in the dictionary, it's just something that doesn't happen in any modern town/city.

The mayor of Sligo, Jimmy McGarry, announced in the Irish Times of 9 September that this was happening, despite the fact that the vote in the council chamber wasn't due until 21 September. How did that happen? Clairvoyant Jimmy?

Related Link: http://www.sligoborough.ie/CouncilMeetings/Minutes/MeetingMainBody,14871,en.html
author by Eddie - East Ward Residentpublication date Mon Nov 30, 2009 23:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If any of you heard George Hook's show today you would have seen the disgraceful and cowardly flight of most of Sligo Borough Council members who obviously are not willing to defend the indefensible any more regarding the O'Connell Street debacle. The Councillors will now have to eat their words, find an eastern bridge route, or surely our city will lost crucial Gateway city funding.

Those of you here who are under the impression that the Chamber of Commerce have orchestrated this campaign to keep O'Connelll Street pedestrian are totally misguided. This campaign was initiated by a number of people, many of whom are colleagues of mine in the arts and music community of Sligo, who were disgusted at their elected representatives ignoring them via the public consultation process, and flouting the planning act 2000 in the process. The campaign attracted the support of Sligo Chamber and the O'Connell Street traders, yes but the main thrust of the campaign has been lead by people in the arts and music community.

If the misguided person who refers to our campaigners as "Tree Huggers" could check his info first, it might be helpful. Amongst the leading campaigners are prominent musicians, artists, arts administrators, planning experts, as well as parents, traders, trade unionists and business people.

Also, don't be mislead by councillors who will tell you the east ward residents are somehow disenfranchised by this. I am an east ward resident and would gladly have 10 minutes more to travel that give up our pedestrian city centre.

I also believe, and have been vindicated today by Minister Finneran, that an eastern bridge route must be found as fast as possible, or Sligo will lose out on Gateway funding to the tune of up to €130 million. The Eastern Bridge and Pedestrianisation are elements essential to keeping our Gateway status and the funds that come with it.

Some facts for you:

Sligo Borough Council's decision about O’Connell Street is urgently incorrect and invalid for the following reasons:

1. Critically, this decision defies the legal planning process under the 2000 Planning Act. Therefore the decision and proposed Development Plan made on November 2nd does not constitute legal process and defies the public’s right to due consultation and transparency on this matter (see 5. below). This is a clear violation of the Planning Act and has eroded the citizens' faith in public consultation.

2. This decision has ignored the majority of submissions made during the consultation period into the planning process: - 60 submissions opposing the removal of the pedestrianised street
totaling signatures by 2850 persons, as opposed to two submissions supporting the opening of O’Connell Street to traffic signed by 100 people. This constitutes a 96.5% majority.

3. This decision has ignored the business community of Sligo who fully supported the retention of the pedestriansation street such as:
- Sligo Chamber of Commerce
- O’ Connell Street Traders (28 of 30 signed a specific petition for pedestrianisation).

4. This decision has ignored the expert advice of the following professionals employed by the state:
- City Planners
- City Engineers
- County Managers Report

5. This decision bypassed the legal consultation process. Sligo Borough Councillors, including the Mayor of Sligo, Cllr Jimmy McGarry, announced publicly that the decision to open O’Connell Street to
traffic was already made. This was done continuously and ahead of the consultation process (completed on September 16th). In the September 9th issue of the Irish Times, the Mayor is quoted as saying “It’s all systems go, all green lights,” ("said Mayor of Sligo, Cllr Jimmy McGarry"). “The street will be open to traffic on December 9th”. He repeats this claim in the September 14th issue of the Irish Times. Other examples of this illegitimate claim are available.

Conclusion:

Sligo as a Gateway City has a strategic objective of pedestrianisation of the City Centre. This decision has ignored the strategic development of Sligo which has been designated a Gateway by Government under the National Spatial Strategy and has benefited from sustained public investment in critical and enabling infrastructure. Public funds have been spent on pedestrianising the street – and are now being wasted on depedestrianising it, against the public’s best interests.

This decision has passed despite being contrary to current and previous Development Plans and National Spatial Strategy.

The Borough Councillors have repeatedly failed to provide any valid argument or professional reports justifying removing O'Connell Street as a pedestrianised zone. They have also failed to provide any documented evidence of significant citizen support for this depedestrianisation.

Related Link: http://www.facebook.com/oconnellstreet
author by East Ward Residentpublication date Tue Dec 01, 2009 00:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The councillors have not represented the people of the eastward fairly. They keep stating that the majority of the east ward residents want O'connell street open, I dont believe it for a minute. Do you realise that Sligo Borough Council received 279 submissions in April 2008 in favour of the easterlink bridge. Not one submission was against the bridge and yet the councillors chose to remove it from the plan on 22 Dec 08. WHY. A further 40 submissions was received this year 39 asking for the re instating of the bridge and one to leave it off the plan. The councillors chose to leave it off the plan. Where is the democracy it that. We are constantly being asked to get involved in consultation process' and when we do our councillors ignore and decide they know what is best for us. Does this not worry anyone as much as me. We are now in a position where we could lose €130 million for Sligo.

author by Des Faul - An O Connell Street Traderpublication date Tue Dec 01, 2009 13:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hi,

I'm a trader on the street! I do not want the street re-opened as it will become just as before, A clogged up mess. The street is to be one lane, the traffic will back up around the corner into Grattan street and Castle street as it did before - or does no one remember the way it was. I am an active member of keeping the street for feet. There are a lot of mis-guided and mis-informed information being passed around on this forum. The chamber of Commerce DID NOT start this campaign , But they do Support it. There is NO PR company running the campaign. We run the campaign - Sligo people - not tree huggers but professional intelligent Sligoions with Common sense annd experience. The Councillors ARE and WILL be subject to this campaign, They took the Public Job and they continue to take the Wages and Expenses that come with said job. We are doing this for free - for our town.

We have offered a multitude of alternatives for alleviating the traffic flow (especially from the East Ward) but these are continually knocked back by our borough councillors, to include the opening of the street in the evening and morning to ease traffic, but they do not listen to any of us. There is a continuous power-struggle in the town hall between the Executive (County Manager and staff0 and the elected officials, we are stuck in the middle of this trying to move Sligo town forward.

The executive are still seeking the funding for the work on the street (It's not the €4.5 million sum being bandied about by the councillors) and the money being spent on the street at the moment €125,000 is a waste of our money as it will all be undone when the street is developed properly .

in the mean-time it's us traders on the street that pay the most Rates of the entire town and between us (On O Connell street) employ over 300 people . . .it's time We had our voice!

kind regards
Des from Cafe Fleur, No 18 O Connell Street

author by ned greenpublication date Tue Dec 01, 2009 20:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The people deserve the politicians they elect as George Hook so often says. Last June the people of the east ward elected quite clearly four councillors who fully supported the reopening of O,Connell St,the retention of the Racecourse as a Recreatational Green Belt,and also no access road through the Martin Savage Community to the proposed east link Bridge,as these politicians have a clear democratic mandate from the majority of east ward voters,the County Managers/Chambers stool pigeons should respect the expressed wishes of the silent majority and accept gracefully the reopening of the street etc.

author by East Ward Residentpublication date Tue Dec 01, 2009 23:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I understand what you’re saying however, communities have been hoodwinked by our councillors who have chosen one community over the other and not for the benefit of that community but to get at the County Manager. Open your eyes everyone I know it’s hard I believed in our councillors until recently, I trusted them to represent us fairly and presumed that they would represent the east ward in a fair and democratic manner. But four years won’t be long coming round and we need new blood into our council. I know that in my community we are taking steps to prepare for the next election and would suggest that all communities in Sligo do the same. What proof is there regarding the silent majority, what documented evidence is there? I’ll tell you what absolutely none, this is not democracy this is an attempt to keep communities down and promote dependency on irate councillors, this is the type of crap that happens in some of the most corrupt countries in Africa. We need a big change in four years, we need equal representation for all communities. But at present we have to fight for Sligo and throwing away €130 million because the councillor’s claim there is a silent majority is madness it wouldn’t happen to any other county in Ireland.

author by Brian watterspublication date Wed Dec 02, 2009 20:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Since Oconnell St hs ben pedestrianised and closed to traffic
, even the bollards in place are manual rather than automatic. The street is not open to Garda patrol Cars at night and if a serious incident should occur the Street is ill-equipped to deal with it. every one of my neighbous in the East Ward complained about the continued closure of O’Connell St and how disenfranchised they felt having to go the whole way around the town to visit the hospital or the IT. The decision to re-open the Street was taken by the whole Council with the sole objective of doing the right thing by us.

Anyone who wants to get to the IT or the hospital has to drive around the whole town instead of just cutting down O'Connell St l say fair dos to the councillors who are doing the right thing by the people who elected them and not bowing down to the chamber of commerce.

author by Sligo Headpublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 06:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

All that this will achieve is to remove Johns Street, Adelaide Street and Wine Street from the trip around town. It will means that you will save approx 60 cents on a taxi run. So lets open O Connell Street to Taxis only. In fact , lets have the taxi rank moved over to to there from Quay Street ? The taxi rank should be there and it would look good there.

author by John Leonardpublication date Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As a resident living in the North Ward of town it has been a nightmare since O Connell st has been closed to traffic stuck in traffic from Castle st /Gratton st John st around into a wedged Adelaide St it adds at least 20 minutes to your journey from Dunnes Stres in Cranmore to access the North Ward l can only imagine the daily nightmare to anyone travelling to the hospital for work or to the IT for college the chamber of commerce are not travelling these roads on a daily basics they . I say you have to hand it to the Cllrs who are backing the people who elected them in June thats what l call democracy not like jude Devins playing to the chamber of commerce he should remember this come election time. !

author by M. Clarkpublication date Fri Dec 04, 2009 00:45author address Sligoauthor phone Report this post to the editors

As I left the Quayside Centre on Friday morning last I saw the protest demonstration against the reopening of O’Connell Street. Despite all the publicity on radio and on the web only 20 or so protesters turned up at the Town Hall.
It was a pathetic turn-out and reflects the lack of support for the Chamber of commerce campaign.

author by Matt. Tpublication date Sun Dec 06, 2009 00:39author address Sligoauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Who is this guy Eddie? Is he off the wall?

He says that the Chamber of commerce campaign to keep O’Connell Street closed was initiated by people in the arts and music community and that the leading campaigners are prominent musicians, artists, arts administrators, planning experts as well as trade unionists and business people.

He is certainly right about the business people and a few “artists” who depend on the business community for funding. But to suggest that prominent artists, arts administrators, planning experts and trade unionist are involved in the Chamber of commerce campaign is patently untrue.

He says that Sligo will lose out on Gateway funding to the tune of €130 million !!!
Did no one tell him that the government announced last year that Gateway funding was scrapped because of the economic crisis.What planet does he live on?

He rants on about the opening of the street being in violation of the Planning act.If thats the case the Chamber would can simply resolve the matter by commencing legal proceedings to overturn the decision of the Council.

He says that Sligo as a Gateway City has benefited from sustained public investment in critical and enabling infrastructure. What sustained investment? Does he live in the real world?

As I already pointed out the Government did not allocate any gateway funding to Sligo, or to any other Gateway city. In fact if he took any interest in O’Connell Street or read any of the articles in the “Sligo Champion” relating to O’Connell Street over the past 18 months he would surely know that the Council actually made an application for Gateway Funding for the pedestrianisation of O’Conell Street some time back and they were advised that no Gateway funding would be available for any gateway projects.

author by John mc Carrickpublication date Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I went to town yesterday to see the switching on of the lights in o connell st and l have to say it was a disgrace to see a protest going on and that what is normally a family day out was turned into a demonstration by the chamber of commerce and the o connell st traders . I left early from the town and took my dissapointed children with me . ! I for one will not shop in any of the O Connell St shops this Christmas or any other time of the year . ! I will do the rest of my christmas shopping in Enniskillen.

It is about time that O Connell st was opened to traffic and at the busiest time of the year as well . Especially for the people of the East and North ward .
The chamber of commerce should be looking for trade to this town not continuously driving it away from the town.

author by rhonapublication date Wed Dec 09, 2009 09:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Congratulations Mayor Mc Garry on your successful reopening of O,Connell St,and also on you and your corpo members decision to waiver parking charges for the christmas period.

author by Leonardpublication date Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am absolutely dismayed by the reopening of O'Connell Street in Sligo. After many years of getting used to the idea of a pedestrianised street in Sligo and seeing the advantage of it to many traders on the street and the positive experience of having a public street where people can freely walk, it now appears that a completely ridiculous decision was made to reopen it, days before Christmas.

I would love to know who were behind this vote and pushed it on the councillors. I cannot at all fathom the motivation or justification to do so. To me it appears myopic and a knee jerk reaction to the recession. However, given a few years more it could have become a lively and pleasant main street in our town.

There can be no long term advantage to this move and I believe that in time I beleive the councillors will greatly regret wasting tax payers money on this were it could be more usefully spent elsewhere. It appears like a vanity project to me.

author by SEAMUSpublication date Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:35author address Sligoauthor phone Report this post to the editors

For the first time in living memory the members of Sligo Borough Council have had the guts to stand up to big business.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the “Sligo Champion” this week to read about councillor after councillor condemning the Chamber of Commerce. I never thought I’d see the day when Fine Gael and Fianna Fail councillors would criticize the Chamber and its activities.

The Chamber really screwed up this time orchestrating the campaign to keep O Connell street closed. If they continued to pull the strings gently from the background they might just have got away with it – but they couldn’t resist appearing at the front of the protests so as to ensure that their photographs were taken.

Well done councillors.

author by M. Clarkpublication date Mon Dec 21, 2009 19:23author address Sligoauthor phone Report this post to the editors

A grand total of 27 adults took part in the “mass demonstration” organised by the Chamber in O’Connell Street on Saturday last. Another pathetic turn-out.

Those with vested interests should know that the people of Sligo are not fools.

I look forward to the next Demo!

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