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Monday’s monthly council meeting had an unsteady start. Perhaps councillors were hungry.
Why wasn’t there enough food for councillors before the meeting? asked Labour Councillor Mary Freehill, as local representatives settled into their seats in City Hall.
She had to come straight from work, but there were only 15 plates of food for 63 people, she said. “This is an ongoing situation here in the council (…). Really and truly, I think this is outrageous.”
The Artane Band, Again
The dinner issue was not resolved, but councillors moved on to a lengthy discussion of whether to discuss a motion put forward by independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, about the long-running dispute over the Artane Band.
Flynn’s motion calls on the Artane Band – which used to be run by the Christian Brothers during a period when young boys suffered terrible physical and sexual abuse – to be disbanded. Lord Mayor Brendan Carr, of Labour, has spoken in support of the band.
Carr has said the debate is having a negative impact on kids in the band today. Which prompted Flynn to put in a second, “emergency” motion on Monday to call for Carr to withdraw his comments.
Carr didn’t consider it an emergency, but said he would take up the earlier motion, even though it wasn’t top of the list. “I do want to bring this to a head, because there are serious issues going on with people putting pictures up of this City Hall (…). Basically, slagging it off and defacing it through social media,” he said.
Flynn didn’t want the motion taken up in that way, though; he said the council should deal with it normally, when it came up in due course. “I’m not doing anything untoward, here. I am not defacing any building whatsoever,” Flynn said.
He said he wanted to have a conversation with Carr about it, and that if the council wanted to talk about the issue at its December meeting, they could do that. Some councillors suggested that Carr and Flynn should sit down in private.
“This is disgusting and disgraceful, [that’s what it is]. You can go ahead without me,” said Flynn, at the suggestion of going ahead with the debate when he wanted it left on the list for later. He walked out.
In his absence, councillors voted to deal with the motion at their next monthly meeting.
DublinBikes and Adverts
Councillors voted in favour of putting in four new advertisements to spots in the south-east of the city, to meet their obligations under a contract with JC Decaux for the DublinBikes scheme.
At the moment, the advertisements are planned for Shelbourne Road, Charlemont Street, Donnybrook Road, and the junction of Pembroke Road and Herbert Park. (The adverts fund part of the scheme’s running costs.)
Much of the debate on Monday focused on the inequity of where the adverts have been put up so far, and where the bike stations are – and also whether councillors in other areas had been allowed as much of a say about adverts in their areas as those in the south-east of the city.
Labour Councillor Andrew Montague said councillors should bear in mind that the south-east has more bikes and fewer adverts, and his area (the north-west area) has more adverts, fewer bikes. (The south-east area has 25 percent of adverts and 47 percent of bike stations.)
Councillor Nial Ring, who represents the north inner city, said: “Stop this nimbyism and snobbishness, just take them.” But Labour’s Mary Freehill said she and her colleagues in the south-east were setting high standards, and that other councillors should do the same.
In the end, most councillors voted for the new adverts.
Section 179 and the Liberties Homeless Hostel
For a while now, Dublin Regional Homeless Executive has been scouting for places to put more beds for rough sleepers. Their numbers are growing, and there haven’t been enough hostel places to put them up.
But the site chosen for 65 beds in Dublin 8 – the former St Nicholas of Myra community centre at Carman’s Hall – has not gone down well with some local residents and councillors. Neither has the fact that councillors weren’t consulted.
Sinn Fein Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh said there was an oversaturation of homeless services in the area. Local residents were heartbroken that the community centre, which was closed due to a lack of funding, wasn’t being reopened for the same purpose, she said.
Said independent Councillor Sonya Stapleton: “The community didn’t actually give up on the fact … they were hoping to have it reopened again for the community.”
Other councillors said that Section 179 (6) (b) of the Planning Act was being used to take powers away from local authorities and representatives.
This section lets the council manager override the usual planning process, if it “is necessary for dealing urgently with any situation which the manager considers is an emergency situation calling for immediate action”.
“Bypassing the planning process is a bad idea (…),” said Fianna Fáil’s David Costello. “It’s going to leave a bad taste in the residents’ mouth.”
They shouldn’t be pushed through without community consultation, he said. “I just ask that this is reconsidered and that proper planning is followed.”
The same councillors lobbied to keep Bru Aimsir hostel open, and that’s not far from this development. Why can’t we just keep that open? asked some.
Chief Executive Owen Keegan said the council had to stop using Bru Aimsir at the end of the year as it had given a commitment, and had already overstayed. “They have plans for that building,” he said.
If the council starts to renege on commitments, then nobody will ever give them buildings, he said. “We’ve been searching all over the place for properties. Nobody ever comes up with other ideas for properties,” said Keegan to councillors. “There’s no easy answers to this.”
Figures released to Sinn Fein Councillor Daithi Doolan, who is also head of the council’s housing committee, make for sobering reading.
Doolan asked the manager how many housing units were owned by Dublin City Council, and before it Dublin Corporation, in each of a series of years.
In October 2005, the council owned 27,110 housing units. Ten years later, the number had dropped to 25,340 housing units. And in October this year, that figure had fallen to 25,274.