Council Briefs: Former Lord Mayor Resigns and Lowering City Speeds Defeated, for Now

Former Lord Mayor Resigns

Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh resigned from the council on Monday night, saying that she needs to look after her own mental health.

Ní Dhálaigh was Lord Mayor of Dublin from June 2015 to June 2016.

“It has been an honour and a pleasure for me to serve on Dublin City Council,” she said at the September monthly meeting. “It has also been a pain in the head.”

On Tuesday, Ní Dhálaigh spoke of the emotional burden of being unable to help families facing homelessness. “It is a tough gig. Because of the housing crisis.”

She was constantly contacted by families in dire housing need and wanted to be able to fix the situation or to deliver something practical for them – but couldn’t, she says.

People expect their political representatives to be able to help them, but she felt her hands were tied due to the systemic nature of the housing crisis. “I can’t make it any better,” says Ní Dhálaigh.

She became frustrated by a lack of progress too. “I was expecting change. I was looking forward to change,” she says. “But we are just moving around the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Ultimately the work took an emotional toll and after much thought she decided that she had to look after her own mental health, she says.

“Imagine what it is like for the people on the other side … those who are actually faced with homelessness,” she says.

She couldn’t believe some of the tributes from the other councillors on Monday night. “Is that me they are talking about?” she says.

Fellow councillors paid tribute to her commitment to her community and to social justice. “It is the city’s loss,” said Fianna Fáil Councillor Daithí de Róiste.

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey pointed to her commitment to the South Inner City Drugs Taskforce of which he says she never missed a meeting.

People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh, who also represents the South East Inner City, said she was “gutted” but that she understood Ní Dhálaigh’s decision.

“It is true, it is really hard to be a public representative, especially when you constantly feel you are delivering bad news to the communities that you are there to support and serve,” says MacVeigh.

Lowering City Speeds

Council plans to lower speed limits to 30kmph on most roads in the city were defeated, at least for the time being, after a proposal that some roads might be better suited to 40kmph limits instead.

Following a period of public consultation, Dublin City Council managers presented a report to councillors at Monday’s monthly meeting, on the plans to bring in a 30kmph speed limit across the city.

At the moment the default speed limit is 50kmph, says the report, while different roads also have different limits in place.

The new bye laws, contained in the report, were set to reduce the default speed limit down to 30kmph with the exception of some named roads.

The idea behind lowering the speed limit is to make the roads safer, especially for people cycling and walking.

Of the 2,174 people who took part in the public consultation, 56 percent said they opposed the move to a 30kmh speed limit throughout the city, while 44 percent were in favour of the change.

Fine Gael Councillor Naoise Ó Muirí proposed an amendment to the report. In some parts of Dublin, outside of the canals, a 40kmph speed limit might be more appropriate, he said.

“We run a real risk of frustrating some drivers and criminalising them by bringing in a blanket 30kmph across the board,” said Ó Muirí.

Ó Muirí suggested that the local area committees should employ local knowledge to decide if certain roads in the area should be 40kmph.

“Accepting that there probably is a middle ground around some of those suburban roads,” he said, citing roads such as Griffith Avenue and the Malahide Road.

“I certainly would not be in support of this,” said Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney.

Those roads mentioned by Ó Muirí are dangerous, she said. “The difference between 30kmph and 40kmph is a difference of whether somebody surivives if they are hit by a car,” she said.

A pedestrian hit by a car going 30kmph has a much better chance of survival than one who is hit by a car going 40kmph, she says.

Most councillors said they agreed on the principle of reducing speed – but several councillors said they find it practically difficult to drive at under 30kmph.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Conroy says that sometimes her car cuts out in second gear when driving less than 30kmph.

Green Party Councillor Janet Horner said that in order to encourage walking and cycling and to protect children and other vulnerable users, the speed needed to be 30kmph.

Horner asked whether accepting the amendment would mean that the council would have to run the community consultation over again.

“We should take this opportunity now and not accept an amendment which would delay this quite significantly,” she said.

The law agent, an internal legal advisor within the council, said that the report in question couldn’t be amended.

If the councillors decided to make changes then a whole new plan will have to be created and that would require another public consultation, she said.

After, 32 councillors voted in favour of the amendment, and 18 against.

Some councillors said they didn’t agree with the system, saying that the bulk of the report was already agreed upon so changes to speed limits should go ahead, but taking into account the amendment, too.

“The report has been amended by this city council,” said Ó Muirí.

The law agent said that that was not possible.

Labour Councillor Mary Freehill said she saw little point in having a second public consultation since the council management didn’t take on board the results of the first one.

“What are we doing, going back out again, and choosing not to listen to the public again,” she says. “It doesn’t make sense.”

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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