The fate of the homeless hostel Bru Aimsir in the Liberties and those who use the emergency accommodation remains hazy.
Dublin city councillors passed two motions on Monday evening at their monthly meeting, calling for the 100-bed centre to remain open beyond May.
But a statement from council chief executive Owen Keegan after the vote was vague on whether or not that will happen.
“It was never intended that Bru Aimsir be a permanent facility, however its use as a hostel has been extended until the end of May because of the colder weather,” Keegan told councillors.
When the hostel was set up, there was local buy-in from residents, local businesses, and the Digital Hub board, who were all told it would close in spring, said Keegan. (Keegan himself is on the board of the Digital Hub Development Agency.)
The council has been talking to the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government about the need for extra permanent hotel accommodation, he said. “Every effort is being made to source alternative accommodation for the 40 or so residents who are currently using the facility.”
It’s all under review and a final decision on its closure or otherwise will be made before the end of May, Keegan said.
The hostel, which opened in October 2015, is in a building leased by the Digital Hub Development Agency from the Department of Communications.
At the weekend, Dublin city councillor Daithi Doolan, of Sinn Fein — who is head of the council’s housing committee — wrote to the new ministers for housing and communications, asking them to work to keep the hostel open.
Activists from the Irish Housing Network have said in a statement that they intend to protest against the closure, with a mid-week march in solidarity with residents.
A Department of Communications spokesperson said that the department had already extended the lease once, after a request from the board of the Digital Hub Development Agency.
“That is all that has been requested of the Minister. The term of the lease is a matter for the DCC [Dublin City Council] to raise with the DHDA [Digital Hub Development Agency] in the first instance,” said the spokesperson, by email.
Is Poolbeg Fund Headed to the Courts?
It’s been kicked around committees, debated at full council meetings, referred to An Bord Pleanala, and still there’s no consensus as to exactly how much should be in a community fund for the neighbourhoods around the Poolbeg waste-to-energy, or incinerator, project.
Which leaves one potential destination for the dispute: the courts.
“I would be seeking, if I can raise the finances, a judicial review on that,” said independent councillor Mannix Flynn on Monday evening.
On the one hand, council managers and a few councillors such as independent Ruairi McGinley and Fine Gael’s Paddy McCartan say that residents who live within the catchment area for the community gain fund are eligible for €10.38 million towards all kinds of extra services.
On the other, Sandymount resident Joe McCarthy and other councillors are adamant that it should be closer to €15 million.
In the middle are a bunch of uncertain councillors. “As long as there is a doubt over how the figures are arrived at, just the cynicism about the project will grow and grow. And I do believe that we just need to finalise it once and for all,” said Dermot Lacey of Labour.
The folks behind the project – Dublin City Council and US waste giant Covanta – were told to create a community fund for local neighbourhoods to be spent on sports facilities, playgrounds, and community services.
The start-up lump sum for the fund was set at 3 percent of the capital costs of the project, with later annual contributions. But there some dispute over what exactly “capital costs” means in this case.
As manager Declan Wallace sees it, the debate is at the end of the road. He says that construction costs are the same as capital costs, and that’s how they’ve calculated it and are going to calculate it. “In terms of what stage is this decided, as far as we’re concerned this is decided,” he said.
But McCarthy said last week that, “The community gain issue is by no means resolved.” The question as he sees it is who now has the locus standi to take a case.
Roger Casement’s Diaries
Everybody in the chamber agreed that it’s really not okay for the UK to be hanging on to 1916 leader Roger Casement’s diaries, and voted to ask the British government to give them back. It’s especially weird that the UK has kept them, given the “incredibly malign purpose” they were put to, said Fianna Fail councillor Frank Kennedy.
The government used explicit extracts from the diaries in which Casement wrote about gay sex, to extinguish any calls for clemency. “Not only were those diaries used to capitalise on prejudice and homophobia, but they were done so for the deliberate purpose of convincing the people to be sympathetic to the execution of someone irrespective of what they had done,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy said it’s not about jingoism, it’s just about bring them back home from where they have been held. “It is bizarre to put it at its mildest,” he said.