At Monday’s monthly meeting of Dublin City Council two new councillors were co-opted to fill vacant seats.

But another seat has been vacant for two years – and it looks like it’ll remain that way until the next local elections, which are scheduled for June 2024.

Filling one seat

Long before Monday’s meeting, Labour Councillor Joe Costello had already announced he did not plan to run in the next local elections.

The former Senator, TD and minister said by phone on Tuesday that he was going to retire, and spend his time “engaged in community activity” in Stoneybatter, and “do a bit of writing”.

He has stepped down from the council well before next year’s vote, he said, because “I felt, as a member of a party, the best thing to do was to give a bit of time to let the co-optee get their feet on the ground before the election.”

At Monday’s meeting, the Labour Party put forward Deborah Byrne to take Costello’s seat representing the north inner-city.

“We’re asking the council to replace the sort of near legendary Joe Costello, who served in this council as public representative for an enormous amount of time,” said Labour Party Councillor Dermot Lacey, asking councillors to endorse Byrne’s co-option.

“I want to acknowledge his enormous work but this is also a happy occasion because we’re bringing a new voice and new woman onto this council, somebody who has lived in her area for a long time,” he said.

New Labour Councillor Deborah Byrne speaks after being co-opted to the council at Monday’s meeting. Credit: Dublin City Council Webcast

Byrne’s LinkedIn page says she’s a musician, a life coach, a money advisor, and a founding member of Bainne Beatha, “a voluntary advocacy campaign group for breastfeeding families”.

“It’s such an honour and a privilege to be here as a councillor representing the people of the north inner-city,” she said at Monday’s meeting. “And I look forward to working with you on getting things done over the coming months.”

She said the area faces challenges with housing, waste management, a lack of childcare facilities, and a lack of artist spaces.

Filling another seat

Councillors on Monday night also co-opted Kelsey May Daly, who People Before Profit put forward to replace Councillor Deirdre Cronin.

Cronin had been co-opted in June 2022 to replace People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh temporarily.

“A close family member was critically ill and needed 100 percent care,” MacVeigh said by phone on Tuesday. “Family has to come first.”

Cronin was never planning to be a permanent councillor, MacVeigh and Cronin both said on Tuesday.

“I’m a long term activist with PBP [People Before Profit] so was happy to help out,” Cronin said. “However with a full time job teaching in Dublin 8 and other commitments, I was only temporarily taking the position.”

As Cronin’s stint came to an end, though, it became clear to MacVeigh that she wasn’t quite ready to go back.

“Unfortunately, we’re not quite out of the woods here yet,” MacVeigh said. And with an election looming, she didn’t feel she’d be able to give her all to the campaign and to the council.

So she made the decision to resign the seat permanently. On Monday night, councillors paid tribute to her and said their goodbyes.

“Tina, I just want to say I think you’re going to be a huge loss for the south-west inner-city,” Social Democrats Councillor Tara Deacy said. “You’re the type of person – I’d like you to be my councillor.”

Daly’s LinkedIn says she’s a drama facilitator with the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, and a former bartender, waitress, and sales assistant.

“I look forward to working with the Dublin city councillors over the next couple of months,” Daly said on Monday night at the meeting. “I’m hoping to be working a lot on housing and community development and arts and culture.”

On the phone the next day, MacVeigh said, “I think Kelsey’s going to do great. She’s a great young woman. And with everything that’s going on, it’s good to be able to give a young person a voice.”

MacVeigh said she’d be working closely with Daly over the coming months as she settled into the role.

Leaving a seat vacant

There was no motion on Monday evening to co-opt an independent councillor to replace former independent Councillor Anthony Flynn, who died in August 2021.

Flynn died not long after it came to light police were investigating two allegations of sexual assault against him. After an inquest, the coroner recorded the cause of death as suicide.

After Flynn’s death, the independent group of councillors tried but failed to co-opt someone to fill the seat.

On Monday, independent Councillor Cieran Perry, the leader of the independents group, said other councillors were being hypocritical by co-opting Byrne and Daly so quickly and easily.

They’d subjected the independent group’s nominee, Geraldine Molloy, to far more scrutiny last year. And, in the end, the council had rejected Molloy’s nomination.

Questions had been raised about Molloy’s handling of complaints of impropriety against her nephew, William Cummings. Cummings is founder of the non-profit BABS Empowerment Project, and Molloy was secretary.

Perry said Tuesday by phone that the independent group had been searching for another person to co-opt. But they hadn’t been able to find someone willing, he said.

“There’s a level of bitterness” over how Molloy was treated, Perry said. “Some people are worried if they go forward they’ll face the same amount of scrutiny.”

There’s also the huge workload of being a councillor, and the stress and frustration that although “every second case” is about housing, there’s little councillors can do to help people who need housing.

“The housing just isn’t there,” Perry said. “All you can do is just represent them.”

Given all those factors, the independents haven’t been able to find someone to take the seat. “We’re really really annoyed at the fact that a disadvantaged community is being left without representation for such a length of time,” he said.

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