I am concerned about what will happen when Metro North construction begins in St. Stephen’s Green. Many of you contacted me to ask what effect it will have on the appearance of the Green. In a special adjournment debate I called in the Minister for Transport to raise the issue of the need to ensure the metro construction works in St. Stephen’s Green cause minimal damage to the environment and the least possible inconvenience to the public. As a national monument it needs to be sensitively developed and preserved.
While many of us welcome the commitment of the Government to the metro and the capital expenditure that will be used for this project, the proposal to take away a large proportion of St. Stephen’s Green is causing a great deal of concern to many citizens. These are not just environmental concerns, but also disturbances that may be made to traffic in the area, to the pond and to other parts of St. Stephen’s Green.
I understand the station in St. Stephen’s Green will be modelled on Grand Central Station in New York. While there is a great intent to integrate different types of transport, the damage to the St. Stephen’s Green will be considerable for at least four years. Up to 20% of St. Stephen’s Green will taken out of action, as 20% of an area running from near the Royal College of Surgeons to Dawson Street will be removed from public access and will be a construction site for about four years. This is a loss to the people of Dublin. The Fusiliers’ Arch will be taken down bit by bit, which is a loss to tourism. We need assurances from the Minister of State that it will be restored properly, and that damage to the environment in the interim will be minimal.
All sorts of statistics are being bandied around the place. The proposal to drain the pond will cause environmental damage and a great deal of upset. The ducks will be removed, as will a great number of trees that will also have to be replaced. St. Stephen’s Green will not be what it was after these works have been completed. I understand this project must be carried out, but I ask the Government that it be done extremely sensitively. There are proposals for at least 16 protrusions, some of them for air vents, and I ask that they also blend in with the environment of the area.
There will be plenty of protests when this work starts. The Minister of State and the Government know this. When the work starts, people will say it is dreadful and the construction work and the obstruction it causes will become the issue. The end project will be submerged in the problems incurred by this construction work. However, those who are offended by it will have a very good case.
I ask the Minister of State to reassure us that all the historic works, especially the Fusiliers’ Arch, will be preserved. I ask that the environment — there are 8,000 trucks projected to go down Dawson Street — will be protected. I gather that the drill and blast techniques to be used will cause a great amount of noise and air pollution, and I ask that it be minimalised. The people of Dublin should look forward to some great infrastructure, but in the meantime they should be protected by the Government from the worst effects of the construction that is going to take place.