Council Briefs: On Removing Mayoral Patronage from the Artane Band, and More

The Artane Band

At Monday’s monthly meeting, independent Councillor Mannix Flynn proposed a motion asking the Lord Mayor to end her patronage of the Artane Band.

Flynn, a survivor of the industrial schools, including Artane, said the uniform and flag of the band “represent symbols of oppression”.

It is traumatic seeing the band, in the original uniform, rolled out at GAA matches, he said.

“The offence and the legacy and the wound is to us, us that were in the fucking place, that sufferred the rape and torture and still do,” he said.

It isn’t appropriate for children to still be wearing the uniform, he said. He appealed to councillors to treat him with respect, which they didn’t the last time he raised the issue, he said.

A previous motion calling on the band to disband was discussed at a council meeting in 2018 and some councillors accused Flynn of proposing the motion as a publicity stunt.

On that occasion, councillors failed to support him.

On Monday, Flynn’s motion was seconded by independent Councillor Damien O’Farrell, who apologised for not speaking up for him the last time.

“I’m asking councillors tonight to believe councillor Flynn when he says that the Artane band marching as well as their uniform and their insignia affect him and many others who were incarcerated in our industrial schools,” said O’Farrell.

Most councillors who spoke said that they respected Flynn’s position and empathised with survivors but that the people involved in the band today aren’t connected with the historic abuses, and the children in the band shouldn’t be punished by the removal of the lord mayor’s patronage.

“I’m not convinced that a withdraw and desist motion here is the way to go,” said Fine Gael Councillor Naoise Ó Muirí. He suggested that a mediation process involving Flynn and the Artane Band might produce a better result.

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey said that he wouldn’t like to do something that could be interpreted as penalising the children who are currently in the band. “I don’t want to fight with councillor Flynn on this because I do respect his integrity on it,” he said.

In 2016, Lacey spoke of Flynn’s motion to disband the Artane Band. “I think it’s the sort of stunt and gimmickry that sadly in my view has been the hallmark of Mannix Flynn’s involvement in the council.”

At Monday’s meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Larry O’Toole said that a “shameful hurt was inflicted on thousands of children”. Someone very close to him had been incarcerated as a child in Goldenbridge, he said.

But the Artane School of Music today is “certainly not the same institution as it was”, said O’Toole. In his view the Lord Mayor should remain as its patron but engage in dialogue to “make it even more appropriate”.

Several councillors commended Flynn for his strength and bravery in pursuing the issue and it was agreed that the Lord Mayor should engage with the Artane Band to pursue a resolution.

Independent Councillor Nial Ring said that he is on the board of the band and that they would be willing to engage in dialogue.

Said Flynn: “Trust me when I tell you that I represent thousands of people.”

In 1969, when he was a child incarcerated in Letterfrack, two of his friends set the band room in Artane on fire to try to highlight the abuse, he said. They were unrecognisable when they arrived in Letterfrack because they had been so badly beaten, he said.

Both those men are now dead, said Flynn. It took a very long time to uncover the truth about what happened in the institutions, he said.

All of the other industrial schools and related institutions have closed.

But the Artane Band uniform was used as a “propaganda symbol,” he says. “I think it is extremely inappropriate and morally ethically wrong that the first citizen, the Lord Mayor, be a patron of that band.”

He didn’t want to see any child undermined by his motion though, he said, so he would put his trust in the Lord Mayor to find a resolution.

“If you don’t have love and you don’t have compassion and you are not present in those things then we have nothing,” said Flynn.

Lord Mayor Hazel Chu, the Green Party councillor, said she would contact the band’s board to arrange a meeting by the end of the week if possible. “This could be back on agenda if it is not resolved,” she said.

White-Water Rafting, Again

At Monday’s meeting, independent Councillor Anthony Flynn refused to withdraw previous comments saying – in stronger terms – that council officials had been inaccurate when they argued for the need for a white-water rafting facility at George’s Dock.

One of the big selling points for the council management’s plans for the facility, which the council voted in 2019 to back, was that it could be used by Dublin Fire Brigade for water-rescue training.

“There would be no other facility like this in Ireland, or Northern Ireland as well,” Greg O’Dwyer, assistant chief fire officer of Dublin Fire Brigade, said at the time.

Information provided by council officials about the costs of sending fire brigade staff abroad to attend such training in the UK may have contributed to some councillors deciding to back the plans, Flynn said.

A report to councillors issued in 2019 said that Dublin Fire Brigade “sends its staff on regular training sessions” to two facilities in the UK. “UK based training increases the cost, because the cost of flights, accommodation and subsistence has to be factored in,” the report said.

But when Flynn looked for a breakdown of those costs, he got a response saying no fire brigade staff went on swift-water rescue training outside of Ireland between 2015 and 2019– although three members had attended a conference in April 2015, they said.

At the previous monthly council meeting, on 10 May, Flynn had called out this discrepancy, and asked: “Why were we told that a serious amount of money was being spent on [swift-water rescue training] training for DFB, which influenced the decision to proceed with the white water rafting facility?”

After that meeting, Keegan wrote to the Lord Mayor Hazel Chu saying that some of Flynn’s comments had been defamatory. He said the reference to sending staff abroad for training was in relation to three conferences attended by swift-water rescue training instructors in the UK in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The cost of the 2015 junket was not available, but in 2016 the trip cost €3,624 and the one in 2017 cost €1,465, says Keegan’s letter.

According to Keegan’s letter, Greg O’Dwyer, the assistant chief fire officer said at the council meeting in December 2019: “I have spoken to a number of people around the various fire services around the country and indeed in Northern Ireland who at the moment have to send their people, like ourselves, to the UK and Scotland at significant cost.”

Said Keegan: “Greg O’Dwyer has advised me that this was a reference to the cost of sending DFB personnel abroad for SWR instructor training.” As such he concluded that Flynn was wrong in his accusation.

At the meeting on Monday 15 June, Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam asked for an update on the matter and said the allegations needed to be dealt with. When Flynn refused to withdraw his comments, councillors agreed to refer the matter to the protocol committee.

Protecting Moore Street

In another effort to preserve several buildings on Moore Street, which is due for a major redevelopment by the company Hammerson, Dublin city councillors on Monday agreed a motion to recommend that they be included on the record of protected structures.

On 1 June, the UK-based company announced plans for a development called Dublin Central, a 5.5-acre block in the heart of the city, bounded by O’Connell Street, Henry Street, Moore Street and Parnell Street.

The proposal includes up to 210 hotel rooms, 94 homes, 8,000 sqm of restaurants, cafes and shops, and 44,000 sq. m. of “flexible, carefully-designed workspace”.

Given their relation to the 1916 Rising, numbers 14 to 17 Moore Street have been declared a national monument. But at a meeting of the full council on Monday, councillors moved to protect a broader swathe of the street – numbers 10 to 25.

In their motion, a cross-party group of councillors called for the entire terrace to be added to the record of protected structures “as a matter of urgency so that a full assessment of all 1916 buildings, carried out by suitably qualified independent experts, can be made available”.

“It means that the process begins for the whole terrace to be assessed for inclusion on the list of protected structures,” says Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha, by phone after the meeting.

The buildings are legally protected while that process is ongoing, he says and so the owner of the buildings cannot proceed with any plans to demolish any of them until after they are assessed.

Some buildings might not be of architectural significance but could still be judged to be of historical significance, says Mac Donncha.

The birthplace of an important figure is an example of a building that might be protected for historical reasons without having any outstanding architectural features, he says.

Councillors previously voted to assess five of the buildings on Moore Street, but the council architects couldn’t access the buildings to do the necessary research, said John O’Hara, the city planning officer at a meeting in April this year.

Council officials were satisfied that three of the buildings, at 14 to 17 Moore Street, had been designated as national monuments, said O’Hara.

But some councillors were not satisfied, as they wanted the whole street to be preserved.

At the time O’Hara said that the developer on Moore Street has a valid planning permission and doesn’t have to comply with any listing on the record of protected structures while they have that.

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Author:

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

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