Council meeting, as Gaeilge
Dublin City Council’s March monthly meeting will be as Gaeilge, says Fianna Fáil Councillor Daithí de Róiste, the lord mayor.
“I think it would be really, really wonderful,” says de Róiste, speaking at the monthly meeting on 2 October. “I think it would be exciting.”
By running the meeting in Irish – to coincide with Seachtain na Gaeilge, the festival celebrate the Irish language – Dublin City Council could set an example for other councils, de Róiste said.
He plans to bring a proposal to the council’s protocol committee.
Councillors who spoke all agreed to give it a whirl but some also flagged concerns about their ability to participate in the meeting.
“It’s an excellent idea,” says independent Councillor Pat Dunne. But not everyone has enough Irish, so there would need to be a good translation service, he said.
De Róiste says a translation service would be provided through earpieces, so all councillors could follow the meeting.
Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha, who chairs the council’s Irish language subcommittee, welcomed the idea, speaking as Gaeilge. “I think it’s an excellent idea and it’s giving leadership.”
Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey said that he cannot speak Irish but that he would try his best to engage in the meeting and use his “cúpla focal”.
“Táimid ag lorg níos mó innfhestíocht ionas go mbeimid ábalta Lá Mór Gaeilge iontach a recchtáil an bhliain seo chugainn,” says Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney. (“We are looking for more funding so that we can host a great Irish Day next year.”)
“In the first of the translation services, Richard,” says de Róiste, to the council’s chief executive, Richard Shakespeare. “Deirdre wants more money.”
By phone on Tuesday, Heney says the Irish language subcommittee, which is part of the arts and culture committee, organises an Irish language event each year on 1 May, called Lá Mór na Gaeilge.
She jumped on the opportunity at the meeting to ask Shakespeare to increase funding for the event, perhaps to include a concert, which she thinks could draw young Gaeilgeoirí from all over Dublin.
“We need a few more quid to make it a bigger event,” says Heney.
At the council meeting, People Before Profit Councillor Hazel de Nortúin also spoke in Irish to back the idea of holding the meeting as Gaeilge.
But she flagged one concern.
“Maybe if you could work together with management to make sure that nothing is going to be put on the agenda – that they might try to slip something in the back of some of the reports,” says de Nortúin, to laughter from the other councillors.
“Not suggesting that you ever would,” she said.
Recycling in Grangegorman
Dublin City Council and the Grangegorman Development Agency (GDA) have backtracked on plans to close a bring centre in Grangegorman – for now.
They won’t close the recycling centre until they have found an alternative site, where they can offer the same level of services, said the council CEO Richard Shakespeare to councillors in an email.
Shakespeare offered that guarantee after a dispute between councillors and council management over a proposal to move the bring centre to a smaller site, with fewer services.
The bring centre sits on land owned by TU Dublin that’s being developed by the state’s Grangegorman Development Agency. A GDA spokesperson said in April that the bring centre was always intended to be temporary.
Ahead of Monday’s council meeting, Fine Gael Councillors Ray McAdam and Colm O’Rourke, together with independent councillors Nial Ring and Cieran Perry, tabled a motion to try to compel the council not to close the facility “until a similar facility of a suitable size and with equal services is provided”.
That new location should be within Dublin 7 and be deemed suitable by councillors and the local community, says the motion.
Councillors brought the motion under section 140 of the Local Government Act 2001, a rarely-used legal instrument by which councillors can compel the council to do something.
At the meeting, McAdam said the councillors were withdrawing that motion because they had received a guarantee from Shakespeare that the recycling services wouldn’t be diminished and the council will not withdraw from the current location until a suitable alternative is found.
“For the avoidance of doubt, a suitable alternative as far as I’m concerned, is that the alternative site is capable of delivering no less favourable services to those that are currently delivered,” says Shakespeare in his email to all councillors.
Pushing back against the new planning bill
Dublin City Councillors on Monday night backed a motion, put forward by Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey, rejecting the terms of the Planning and Development Bill that is currently before the Oireachtas.
Lacey said the Planning and Development Bill 2022 reduces opportunities for citizens to engage with the planning process.
The bill “seriously threatens good planning, ignores the Arhaus [sic] Convention and significantly reduces the opportunities for Citizens and Councillors to actively engage in the planning process”, says Lacey in his motion.
The Aarhus Convention is an international treaty that creates democratic, and environmental rights, says Alison Hough, a senior law lecturer at TUS Athlone and member of the Environmental Justice Network Ireland. The convention aims to enable people to assert their right to live in a clean and healthy environment, she says.
Since the council’s vote on Monday evening backing Lacey’s motion, the cabinet has agreed to go forward with a new variation of the bill, with a government statement saying it will bring greater clarity and consistency to planning decisions. It hasn’t yet published this current version though.
At the meeting, Lacey said the bill as it was at the time restricted the rights of citizens to engage in the planning process and restricts the development plan process.
It greatly strengthens the minister for housing’s powers, he said. “Ministerial guidelines have been the single biggest attack on good planning in this city.”
Ministerial guidelines allow the central government to overrule some provisions of the council’s city development plan. They have been used in the past, for example, to allow for taller buildings than would have been permitted by the council and smaller apartments.
Hough says that under the version of the bill that has been made public, the Minister can write planning statements that councils will have to abide by. “There is a huge concentration of power in the minister,” she says.
Most councillors, including Green Party councillors, agreed with Lacey’s motion.
“We all agree there needs to be planning reform,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan. But he appealed to all parties to oppose the bill as it currently stands and to ensure that “the dangerous parts of the bill are taken out”.
“This bill is draconian and negative,” says independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, “and will close down and silence communities.”
Independent Councillor Pat Dunne says the government is trying to shift blame onto councils for the government’s failures in delivering housing.
Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon says that the Green Party councillors back the motion. “We’re not happy with the bill that is currently before the Oireachtas,” he said at the meeting.
Pidgeon said the Green Party had been pushing to improve the legislation from within the government and that he thought substantial changes would be made to the bill before it proceeded.
Planning reform is needed, said Pidgeon, as many important projects are being held up.
In Tuesday’s government statement announcing the latest version of the bill’s approval by cabinet, Green Party TD Eamon Ryan said it was welcome and timely. “This Bill can be a cornerstone to our sustainable and balanced development as a country.”
At the council meeting on Monday, Fianna Fáil Councillor Claire O’Connor said that the bill was not a matter for the council. “It’s way above our pay grade,” she says. “We’re not elected to the Dáil.”
Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam said that as the largest local authority in the country, he thought that the council should have an opportunity to input their views to the Oireachtas committee.
“This debate tonight is useful in the context of a draft bill that is probably going to see significant change before it is brought forward to the Oireachtas,” says McAdam.
He doubts that the bill will be passed before the next general election, he said.