Dublin Zoo in Trouble“Dublin Zoo is a cultural institution, not just for people who live in Dublin, but for everybody in Ireland.”

As heard on Today with Claire Byrne

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The ongoing pandemic has seen a substantial number of businesses shut down, some with the hope that they can reopen if and when restrictions are lifted. But some businesses have not been able to shut down, even if they have to remain closed. Neasa Hourigan, Green Party TD for Dublin Centralspoke to Claire Byrne about the plight facing Dublin Zoo: 

“I suppose the problem for the zoo is that, unlike other businesses, they don’t have the option of simply shuttering up and staying home during the lockdown. They have 400 animals that they care for – and do so brilliantly.” 

Neasa has three small children and lives close to the famous Phoenix Park Zoological Gardens, and she says it’s a big part of her family’s lives. According to reports on Wednesday, Dublin Zoo needs a minimum of €500,000 a month – just to keep the animals fed and healthy. Is it a case, Claire asked, that the government should step in and provide financial assistance for the zoo? Neasa is firmly of the opinion that that’s exactly what should happen: 

“I personally think that yes, we do have to support the zoo. Look, I completely understand that the zoo now feels that they need to look for public support… And it’s not something that just Dublin Zoo is experiencing, obviously, Fota Wildlife Park has a similar issue. Animals are expensive to feed.” 

Indeed, Neasa told Claire that she’s of the opinion that it would be “unthinkable that there wouldn’t be support” for Dublin Zoo. Claire put it to her that there are so many charities, businesses and institutions affected by the pandemic restrictions that are crying out for state support, so how does the government decide which to give help to? It’s a delicate balancing act, for sure, Neasa says, but Dublin Zoo is a cultural institution, not just for people who live in Dublin, but for everybody in Ireland. 

Claire quoted Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan, who said on Twitter that Dublin Zoo is a victim of “excessive Covid restrictions” and, as an outdoor facility, it should be allowed to remain open. Neasa strongly disagrees: 

“I don’t know Deputy O’Callaghan’s expertise in this, but I believe in the experts and I’m happy to be guided by NPHET when they say we should stay at home.” 

Supporting places like Dublin Zoo until we can safely reopen them is the thing to do, according to Neasa Hourigan. You can hear Claire and Neasa’s full conversation here. And Conor Pope spoke to Ray D’Arcy about the plight of Dublin Zoo as well and you can find that here. 

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2020

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