The Surprising Persistence of a Dolphin's Barn Phone Box

There is a phone box outside of Noeleen Rooney’s shop in Dolphin’s Barn, with piles of rubbish beside it. On Friday last, that included a carpet.

She is sick of looking at the rubbish and blames the box for attracting illegal dumping – and the council for being slow to respond to requests to take away the waste.

“There was whole bed and mattress there for nearly a week,” she says. “It was near Halloween time and eventually the kids took it for the bonfire.”

The phone box and piles of rubbish alongside it, has been an issue for years now, says Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh. “It’s such a magnet for illegal dumping.”

Rubbish by the phone box. Photo by Noeleen Rooney.

In a meeting of Dublin City Council’s South Central Area committee last Wednesday, Ní Dhálaigh said she has been trying to get the box removed by Eir for five years.

“We will have a united Ireland quicker than we will get that phone box taken away,” she said.

There is so much rubbish left at the phone box, that some newcomers to the area actually thought that was where they were supposed to leave their refuse bags for collection, she says.

“It’s just a tiny box, just come and take it away,” says Ní Dhálaigh. If she can get permission to do so, she will organise people to remove it herself, she says.

Even throughout her tenure as lord mayor of Dublin in 2015/16, she was not able to get it removed.

“Anything else that was causing that much illegal activity would be addressed by now,” she says.

Why Is It Taking so Long?

It is unclear why it is taking so long for the issue to be dealt with.

Rooney said that even aside from the illegal dumping, “the phone box itself is an eye sore too”.

Last Friday, it was dirty inside and outside, the glass panels were broken, and the broken glass was scattered around the ground inside the box. It had a dial tone, though.

Another phone box about 100 metres down the street looked similar, but also worked.

Dearbhaill Rossiter, Head of Corporate Affairs at Eir which runs all the public payphones, says that the phones are in use.

In the six months between September 2016 and February 2017, people made 104 calls from the two payphones on the street, she said. That’s roughly one call every two days.

Across Dublin city, people made 38,097 calls from payphones between October 2016 and February 2017, she said. There are 210 working payphones in the area that stretches from Dublin 1 to Dublin 12. 

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) “has stated that there is a social requirement for payphones and we have an obligation therefore to retain a certain level of service”, said Rossiter.

Back in 2014, ComReg made Eir the universal provider of public payphones for four years.

It noted that public payphones are valued by disadvantaged and vulnerable consumers, and so set the number of payphones that should be maintained, unless their usage fell by a certain level – in which case the company could remove them if it wants to.

If the average usage is less than 1 minute per day and the average use to freephone numbers or emergency-call answering services is not more than 30 seconds of these minutes, then Eir can remove them.

Also, if a local authority asks them to do it, they can remove them — but it doesn’t mean that they have to.

ComReg couldn’t force Eir to remove the payphones, according to a review carried out last year.

“This is ultimately a commercial a decision by Eir,” it said. “However, Eir are not obliged to retain any payphone where there is evidence of antisocial behaviour, even if it has usage above the threshold level.”

A spokesperson for Eir said today that the company has received a request from Dublin City Council, and they will take the phone box away. They didn’t say when, though.

Rossiter said that the phone boxes are “maintained and frequently monitored”.

Attracting Rubbish

Rooney thinks that it would help with the illegal dumping if they got rid of the box. Rubbish bags are usually left propped up against it.

She has hundreds of photos of the rubbish, and of food waste scattered across the street. It attracts rats, she says.

As well as removing the phone box, Rooney also wants the council to post an undercover litter warden in the area at night. “A litter warden at night for one week would sort the problem.”

A Dublin City Council spokesperson said that “litter wardens and authorised officers carry out routine patrols to identify, remove and investigate illegally dumped material”.

They go door-to-door to ask people to prove how their rubbish is collected, and are working on using new technologies to deal with illegal dumping, she said. She didn’t answer questions about Dolphin’s Barn in particular.

Ní Dhálaigh says the council has now agreed to put cameras in on this site.

Rooney said she and other residents are meeting with councillors about the rejuvenation of the neighbourhood, soon.

“But the priority has to be the dumping. What’s the point of having nice tree-lined streets and then all this rubbish in the middle of it?” she says.

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Author:

Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a freelance journalist. You can reach her at laoiseneylon@gmail.com.

Reader responses

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roscaf
at 28 June 2017 at 10:42

I am not convinced that the presence of the phone box causes the dumping issue. Plenty of dumping around dublin in places with no phone boxes

Aidan Harte
at 28 June 2017 at 11:37

Ireland’s mobile phone usage is one of the highest in the world. In 2017, phone boxes are not public amenities; they are box-shaped advertising hoardings.

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