No love lost for kissing gates in Dodder Park

By Mary Dennehy

SOUTH Dublin County Council has responded to concerns raised over accessibility to Dodder Valley Park after new ‘kissing gates’ were introduced.

The council last week introduced new swing gates at the entrance to Dodder Valley across from Aherns Pub and at the Speaker Connolly-side on the Firhouse Road to “stop scrambler bikes and quads illegally accessing the park”.

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No more running in Dodder Park with Daniel Tighe as his special running buggy won’t go through the newly installed gates

However, when Sinead Tighe and her son Dan, who is a wheelchair user, visited their local park last week, they were unable to gain access. 

Taking to Facebook, Sinead said that the family could no longer get Dan into Dodder Valley Park with his wheelchair or special needs buggy.

The Tighe family’s local access point to the park is off the Firhouse Road at the Speaker Connolly Pub.

“There is no way a wheelchair can get in”, Sinead said.

“We were delighted when they did the openings as it meant we could finally bring Dan for a nice walk from our house [on the Kiltipper Road] to Firhouse.

“We got to meet lovely people too.

“It was also a place we were getting Daniel to walk as there was grass so if he wanted to stop or had a behavioural episode we were safe and could sit on the grass until he was ready to start again.

“It will affect many wheelchair users in our community, again the vulnerable are let down.

“I know there may be a reason but yet again those with disabilities don’t matter.”

Since the Tighe family raised the accessibility issues, South Dublin County Council visited the location and removed a section of the wall to improve access.

Teresa Walsh, Director of Environment, Water and Climate Change told The Echo: “The council installed a number of ‘kissing gates’ at some entrance locations in Dodder Valley Park to stop scrambler bikes and quad bikes illegally accessing the park.

“The job to install the kissing gates at Dodder Valley Park involved the removal of a section of stone wall to make way for the new entrance.

“One of the gates was installed but with the wall still in place, the section of wall has now been removed and the gates should now be accessible to the vast majority of buggies and wheelchairs.”

Sinead and her husband Keith are regularly spotted running in the area while pushing Daniel in a special running buggy.

After the wall was removed by the council, Sinead and Keith revisited the ‘kissing gates’ and successfully got Daniel’s wheelchair through.

However, Daniel’s running buggy, which is larger, would not fit through.

“First up was the wheelchair and we’re delighted to say we got through”, Sinead said.

If [you had a] larger wheelchair than ours you would get through, may be a little tight but you will get rotation.

“Walking frames will get through too.

“Unfortunately [our running buggy] would not go through so sadly no more running through the Dodder with Dan.”

Speaking with The Echo this week, Sinead said: “We are very happy with the council’s response and action… and they are eager to meet me to have a chat about it.

“This isn’t just about Dan, when we were running in Dodder Valley Park we met lots of people with mobility issues.

“In a community we have to think of all when making a decision, especially if it involves parks and public access.”

Understanding the need to address the issue of scramblers, Sinead said: “It’s comes down to looking at the issue of scramblers as a community, we need to come together as a whole on important issues.”

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Cannon William Deverell trying to get his bike through the new gates in Dodder Paark

The introduction of the gates have also raised concerns with other park users.

Reverend William Deverell  of St Maelruain’s Church of Ireland in Tallaght Village regularly cycles through the park.

“The new gates are creating a social distancing pinch point, resulting in people gathering when they’re not supposed to be gathering”, Rev Deverell said.

“The fact is people may now also have to handle the gate when they’re not supposed to be touching things.

“I’d love to know the rationale behind it.”

Before the gates were installed, Rev Deverell could cycle straight through the access point.

However, he now has to jump off his bike and reverse it through the gates, which takes extra time when people are trying to keep moving.

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