herald

Friday 24 November 2017

Andrew Lynch: Time to curb these clampers who make city life a living hell

GEORGE Lee's political career may have been a lot shorter and less glorious than some of his fans expected.

During his nine months as a Fine Gael TD, however, the RTE man did at least raise one issue of genuine national importance.

He publicly declared that the aggressive behaviour of private clampers is becoming a public menace -- and for the sake of every motorist in the country, we can only hope that his former colleagues in Leinster House have the political will to do something about it.

Every law-abiding person who gets behind the wheel of a car accepts that clamping is a necessary evil.

Misery

As long as it's controlled by a local authority and the rules are absolutely clear, we all understand that some parking spaces must be kept off limits.

The problems begin when private operators sense the opportunity to make a quick buck -- and start exploiting the lack of regulation within the industry to make drivers' lives a misery.

The anecdotal evidence has been piling up. Radio phone-ins and newspaper letter pages have been filled with horror stories about motorists who have been clamped in hospitals, churches and other areas where any reasonable person would have assumed it was fine to park their vehicle.

Some have been targeted while getting change from the shops for the ticket machine, others have found that even the machine being out of order is not accepted as a valid excuse.

They are the victims of private operators, who have sometimes imposed additional charges for services such as 'tow truck cancellation'.

George Lee spoke out on the issue after discovering that private clampers at McGowan's car park in Churchtown had been targeting cars on land that was actually owned by Dublin Corporation.

Sadly, this was not an isolated example.

Clamping is supposed to be about keeping traffic flowing, but some unscrupulous companies see it as a way to generate revenue instead -- and when cars are treated as four-wheel cash cows, you can hardly blame their owners for getting irate.

The upshot of all this is that road rage is clearly on the increase all over the city. Rows over parking spaces are breaking out daily in streets, shopping centres, housing estates and train stations.

The clampers themselves, meanwhile, strut about in ridiculous uniforms, actively taking pleasure in ruining as many people's days as they can.

Commuters have already been seriously inconvenienced by the crazy new 30kmph speed limit in the city centre, which has never had any public support and is widely ignored anyway.

Dublin City Council would be a lot better off if they turned their attention to the murky world of private clamping, an area where a short, sharp shock is clearly long overdue.

As the AA has pointed out, a few basic rules would go a long way towards holding the clampers to account.

Simple

Every private clamper should be required to have a licence from the local council and they should be legally obliged to display clear ID.

There should be a maximum fine, linked to the sum charged by the local council. Finally, there has to be a simple procedure for appeals from motorists who feel that the law has been unfairly applied to them.

Private clampers have been getting away with murder in this city for far too long. It's about time they had their own wings clipped.

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