At Monday’s monthly council meeting, independent Councillor John Lyons didn’t get to put his emergency motion to try to push the council to move faster to clear a giant illegal dump in Priorswood.
He wanted to call on Dublin City Council’s chief executive, Owen Keegan, among other senior officials, to meet with local residents to say what their plan is to finally remove all the waste.
But the Lord Mayor, the Green Party’s Caroline Conroy, ruled it out of order, saying Lyons’ motion didn’t qualify under council rules as an emergency.
Lower-level council officials from the area office would meet with a small group of residents next week, said Ruth Dowling, an official from the chief executive’s department, in an email to councillors on Monday 5 September, ahead of the full council’s September monthly meeting that evening.
On Tuesday, Lyons said that a meeting would be good, but that he wasn’t happy with the delegation. “That isn’t good enough,” he said. “It has to be the chief executive.”
Keegan, the council’s chief executive, has been at meetings with Gardaí in recent times to discuss responses to the illegal dumping and the site, Lyons said, and residents want it to be the chief executive they meet with too.
“They should be kept up to date on a regular basis, not through us, but directly through the city council officials who are responsible for this,” Lyons said. “We just need to push it now.”
Not an Emergency?
For years, mounds of waste have been growing on a patch of council land north of the housing estates of Moatview Court and Belcamp Gardens in Priorswood, and south of the Traveller sites at Cara Park and Tara Lawns.
A 2019 assessment by engineers found that at the time, it was mostly gravelly clay, ceramics, bricks, wire and plastic, but with some asbestos-containing materials, too. It’s grown in the years since.
Residents have said they are worried for their health, that they’re plagued by rats, and that dirt and dust can coat their washing and windows.
“The scale of the problem and the health risks involved require immediate action,” said the minutes of a meeting in June 2020 of officials from the council, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Environment, and Gardaí.
However, Lord Mayor Conroy decided not to put Lyons’ emergency motion on the agenda for this month’s meeting of the full council.
“This motion is not an emergency under standing orders,” said her explanation of the decision.
“However given the importance of the issue the Lord Mayor has liaised with the Assistant Chief Executive with responsibility to arrange a meeting as a matter of priority,” it said.
“An emergency motion is one that due to its seriousness gives rise to an unexpected, urgent and/or potentially dangerous situation requiring immediate action of Council,” says the council’s meeting standing orders.
Motions that have made the cut in the last few years include one calling for the National Transport Authority to consult fully on plans for the city’s bus system, another calling on the council to assess the De La Salle school building in Ballyfermot to add to the list of protected structures.
Others include one to express deep concern about the overflow from the Ringsend water treatment plan that meant Dublin’s beaches had been closed and called for funding so it didn’t happen again, and deep concern too at a boil water alert issued for Dublin.
Another requested the council’s chief executive not to proceed with new closing and opening arrangements for Dartmouth Square Park in Ranelagh until area councillors had an opportunity to discuss the impact.
Lyons wrote in his justification for the emergency motion that immediate action is required on the illegal dump site as it presents a public-health danger and public nuisance to local residents.
Lyons did talk about his motion at the meeting, even if it wasn’t on the agenda for a vote.
At the meeting, he said the council had to change tack on its current plan, which is to wait until it has a full plan to develop the site, and is ready to do that, before it removes the waste.
“It seems as if the favoured position has housing going on that site. That could take, let’s be generous, a year or two, at best, to get such a plan in place, the funding secured, an agreement secured also,” he said.
The future development plans and clearing the waste need to be decoupled, he said, and the site cleared urgently. “And then we can discuss the future use of that site for the benefit of the community going into the future.”
Said Conroy, the Lord Mayor: “I very much acknowledge everything that you’ve said and it is urgent, absolutely. I don’t agree that anybody should be living in such a state and I have been speaking to the officials. They have promised that they will meet with the locals out there.”
“I don’t want to open it to debate because we are very tight on time and I need to keep the meeting moving,” she said.
Larry O’Toole, a Sinn Féin councillor, said he is a local resident. “It’s right on my doorstep. It’s my neighbours, my neighbours that have to put up with it.”
“To not take that motion was a disgrace. This is an emergency,” said O’Toole.
Said Lyons on Tuesday: “I just think the fact that they didn’t accept this motion is reflective of the general approach to the issue over the last 15 years. There is a lack of urgency.”
“It’s been allowed to drift for too long. It does constitute an emergency, but the position they took last night is reflective of the position that they took for the decade and a half that this has been a problem,” he said.