After a month off, councillors returned to City Hall on Monday evening for their first full meeting after the summer holidays.
One of the major issues on the agenda: the sale of some council-owned flats at Priory Hall, the apartment complex in north Dublin built with little fireproofing. Works to ensure that they meet fire-safety standards are now done on 44 apartments, and the council management plans to sell them.
Not everybody was on board with that idea, though. “In the context of the most severe housing and homelessness crisis this city has ever faced”, the 44 units should be given to people on the housing list, said John Lyons, a People Before Profit councillor.
Anti-Austerity Alliance Councillor Michael O’Brien put forward a motion to make the entire development social and affordable housing. It was defeated by just one vote, cast as a decider by the current lord mayor, Labour’s Brendan Carr.
When the council took over the flat complex in 2013, it entered into a contract that included the proviso that only 20 percent of the 187 apartments would be used for social housing.
On Monday, councillors tried to change that, voting in favour of a motion by Labour’s Dermot Lacey Alison Gilliland to increase the proportion of the development to be allocated for social housing to 30 percent.
Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan said the council’s hands were tied, as there is a legally binding agreement to sell the apartments privately. So it’s unclear whether that will happen. Keegan said the council could try to negotiate with the other parties to the contract and see.
Selling the homes on to private owners would help the housing shortage too, as it’s not just those on the social housing list who are struggling to find homes, said Fine Gael’s Kieran Binchy.
Attempts to rework the allocations might lead to a long process, or litigation, Binchy said. “I won’t vote for anything that will contribute to the site lying derelict for longer … or jeopardise the agreement,” he said.
Could the units be bought by approved housing associations? asked Paul McAuliffe of Fianna Fail. Keegan said not, as the contract specifies that the units taken over by the council from owner-occupiers should be sold privately, and not used for social housing.
Councillor Dermot Lacey of Labour said that the Labour proposal the council passed Monday allowed the project to proceed and also allowed for more social housing.
So, the apartments will go up for sale, and the council management will go talk to other parties to see if they can boost the amount of social housing in the complex to 30 percent.
The Parnell Statue
The majority of the council members rejected a proposal by Fine Gael’s Naoise O’Muiri that the Parnell monument be moved from its current location on O’Connell Street to let the traffic flow better.
O Muiri said the Parnell statue, located at the junction of O’Connell Street and Parnell Street since 1911, is causing traffic congestion. Perhaps there’s a better spot on the street for it, he suggested.
Independent Mannix Flynn spoke up for the monument. “It is an absolute gem of a piece of work and it would be sacrilege to move it,” he said. When the Luas Cross City works are done on O’Connell Street, that’ll slow traffic there anyway, he said.
Mícheál Mac Donncha of Sinn Fein said the statue is there because it’s close to the Rotunda Hospital, where Parnell gave several important speeches. It would be “bizarre” to move it for cars, he said.
O Muiri’s motion was defeated by 42 votes to 5.
Fleming Leaks and Cycle Lanes
[CORRECTION: This article was updated on 23 September at 9.30 am. The motion to allocate 30 percent of the Priory Hall to social housing was put forward by Labour’s Alison Gilliand, not Dermot Lacey. Sorry for the error.]