Notes from the Dublin City Council Autumn meetings
Sandy Hazel reports from recent Dublin City Council meetings. Questions remain unanswered on the Poolbeg incinerator licence; the abject failure of the DDDA; renaming Merrion Square Park and the Queen's visit to Ireland. Please get in touch should you wish to report from meetings of other Councils.
Poolbeg and the democratic deficit, a local view
At the Dublin City Council Meeting September 2010, City Manager John Tierney (pictured) was asked about the planned Poolbeg waste incinerator and citizens' "exposure" to "another €60 million" in relation to compulsory purchase orders for land on the foreshore required to complete the original plans. Temperatures in the chamber began to rise.
Councillors, indignant at not seeing copies of contracts between DCC and Covanta cried "public interest". Cllr.Catherine Noone distributed her solicitor's instructions to DCC to cough up the contract. DCC argued commercial confidentiality but this did not impress councillors who queried the "statutory position of managers versus the public interest remit of the elected representatives" in council matters.
Commercial considerations aside, Noone was "amazed that we are not to be trusted with a contract that we are party to". It was noted that if the confidentiality clause is "such an integral part of the contract and seeing as every journalist in Dublin seems to have access to this contract, then doesn't this make for a breach of the contract?"
Manager John Tierney says that as part of the contract is in the public domain then it may be possible to release parts of the contract.
What remains unclear is why councillors did not ask for this a long time ago? Stable door, horse and bolted comes to mind.
Cllr McGinley said that "the reputation of this parliament as a place to do business is being severely damaged". Councillors said it was evident that government policy is being "imposed on the people of Dublin by bureaucrats in Custom's House".
Manager Tierney reminded the chamber that when the Integrated Strategy was decided the councillors agreed that incineration should be part of that. Tierney also stated, categorically: "Waste will not be coming in from outside Ireland."
More questions remain:
- Where will the ash go?
- What are the actual cost comparisons in relation to ash disposal and CO2 production with the mechanical Biological Treatment plan?
- What are the arrangements between DCC and Covanta regarding the revenue from electricity generated by plant?
- What are the actual projections for residual waste volumes for incineration or other treatment over the next ten years?
- What are the costs per tonne when compared to other similar Covanta sites globally?
Dublin Docklands Development Authority
"Never was so much promised to the community and so little delivered." This was the view of those who agreed with the motion to remove planning powers of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) at the Dublin City Council Meeting of September 2010. Put forward by Cllr Ray McAdam, the proposal calls on Minister for the Environment John Gormley "to revoke the planning powers of the DDDA...and that those powers are transferred to Dublin City Council".
Animated debate on the planning prowess of the DDDA and its apparent "disregard for citizens there" followed. Cllr Mannix Flynn said that what the DDDA had done to the community was "akin to ethnic cleansing". Many councillors agreed that while some good had come of docklands redevelopment, the area had very little to show for the quantities of money spent.
That the DDDA was "dysfunctional" went unchallenged and many agreed that it had "failed miserably in its regeneration function". Comparisons were made with the Fatima 'regeneration' which councillors said had also "failed to embed itself". The social affordable housing allocation was woefully inadequate according to councillors and some elderly people were offered apartments "12 floors up" which was considered a prohibitive policy.
The argument over renaming Archbishop Ryan Park to Merrion Square Park was "depressing" said Cllr Dermot Lacey. "This council should be expending this energy on playgrounds and decent housing," he said. However, some councillors felt that the renaming was an act of ingratitude because the church is leasing the park for 999 years to DCC for €1.
"If this park is required for diocesan purposes then the church only needs to give DCC 12 months notice," said Fianna Fail Cllr Jim O Callahan. "Why not change all the roads and parks? Should we examine the moral character of all bridges, parks and roads' namesakes?" he asked.
It is worth noting too that most of our wonderful parks and green spaces were the result of planning by our British colonisers. Councillors highlight the fact that the public consultation resulted in one choice of name which topped a poll and yet the decision by DCC is a different choice. Why this is so remains unclear.
Elizabeth Windsor to visit?
The proposed visit to the state by Elizabeth Windsor elicited a mixed response from Councillors. "The costs of the visit aside, she would only be welcome if she was coming to apologise and to hand back keys," said Louise Minihan. "I will take her to Ballybough to apologise to families whose fathers and grandfathers died in 1916," said Minihan. "She was the commander in chief of the British Armed forces when many atrocities took place in Ireland ...these are her staff."
"Elizabeth Windsor represents the years of tyranny and repression that took away our language and starved us to death," said Minihan.
These reminders did not move the majority. The facts that partition has been approved by the Good Friday Agreement, that David Cameron had very publicly gone on the record in Derry and that our heads of state are entertained regularly in the UK were argued. The need to remain on good terms with our sovereign neighbour and the potential for tourism boost won the toss. Councillors felt that their vote in no way diminished their own standing as proud Irish people.
"People taking it upon themselves to speak for dead people" should be "desisted" said another councillor.