Developer Martin Keane hasn’t made much progress on his grand plans for rebuilding the Iveagh Markets in Francis Street, so some councillors think he should surrender the property to the Dublin City Council rather than continue to leave it vacant.
Dublin City Council awarded Keane, who owns pubs and hotels in Temple Bar, a 500-year lease to restore the Iveagh Markets.
His plan envisioned a haven for Irish crafts, fashion, food and art. It would have studios for artists, craftspeople, jewellery makers, sculptors, painters and potters, as well as a hotel, bars, restaurants, a nightclub, a distillery and a brewery.
The work was due to be completed in 2017, but People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh, says only excavation work has been done on the site.
On 18 January, the council’s South Central Area Committee agreed a motion calling on Dublin City Council to fulfill its own mission of tackling dereliction by taking back responsibility for the development of the Iveagh Markets.
MacVeigh tabled the motion, which also called on the council to fund the development of the Iveagh Markets as a “central hub for community, cultural, social enterprise, tourism and heritage activities in the Liberties”.
Although MacVeigh was absent from the committee’s meeting due to sickness, her fellow councillors agreed her motion without debate. The motion is now expected to go to the full council for approval.
“Legally this area committee cannot take over the Iveagh Markets, but we can add pressure, which is what we are doing,” said independent Councillor Paul Hand, the committee’s chair.
Dublin City Council plans to purchase 800 so-called “smart” bins, according to Sinn Féin Councillor Greg Kelly, who represents Ballyfermot-Drimnagh, and he wants his area to be “first in the queue” for the bins.
Solar-powered smart bins can crush waste in their bellies, making room for more. They can also send out alerts when they are full, so workers can come around and empty them, rather than inadvertently leaving them to overflow, and rubbish to end up on the street.
(The company behind their roll out in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority area, Big Belly bins, met with Dublin City Council’s Chief Executive Owen Keegan as far back as 2015 to talk about them.)
Kelly put forward a motion at the South Central Area Committee meeting on Wednesday calling for new smart bins to be installed in South Central, which he represents.
Labour Councillor Rebecca Moynihan and People Before Profit Councillor Hazel De Nortúin, who also represent South Central, both backed his call.
De Nortúin said the majority of the emails she receives from residents relate to waste management issues, be it fly-tipping, a lack of bins, or bins overflowing.
Dublin City Council’s Peter Finnegan said the council has put the contract for the provision of smart bins out to tender, but doesn’t actually have the bins so they can’t start installing them in South Central.
Kelly agreed to amend his motion to say: “The initial roll-out of the bins should happen in Dublin South Central.”
Finnegan agreed to find out the timeline for the bins and to “say we are first in the queue because our area committee, demands it, or sorry requests it”.
Motor tax discs may be abolished, meaning there’d be no need to go down to the motor tax office in Smithfield to get one. Some councillors worry about what would happen to the workers at that office.
At Thursday’s meeting of the council’s Finance Strategic Policy Committee, councillors discussed a report on the UK’s motor tax system.
The UK no longer issues tax discs. Its Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s digital system registers a car and can keep tabs on whether tax has been paid. There’s no need for paper.
In Dublin, the council still issues physical tax discs at its offices in Smithfield, but it has seen a steady increase in the use of its online system.
The report said the council’s Motor Tax Service would support abolishing the vehicle licence (tax disc) as it currently operates.
The planned nationwide roll out of automatic number-plate readers (ANPRs) by An Garda Síochána was completed in 2010. The use of the online system and the ANPRs, instead of the tax discs could save money.
But some councillors raised concerns. If the Motor Tax Office in Smithfield were to close or reduce it services, what would become of its staff?
“It is inevitable that it’s going to be moving more online, but is it a case that with the jobs that have been allocated … Is it still going to be processed within, say, the likes of Smithfield?” People Before Profit Alliance Councillor Hazel de Nortúin asked.
Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey was also concerned. “I don’t want to see any loss of jobs so I presume there will be redeployment in the event of any change in circumstances?” he asked.
The council’s head of finance, Kathy Quinn, said that the closure of other council offices – in Nutgrove, Clondalkin, and Ballymun, for example – over the past few years has produced savings that the council was able to spend on providing services.
The staff, she says, would be safe. “The staff that were involved in each of those services have gone to housing and roads and so on, so there’s no jobs lost,” she said. “They’ve been redeployed.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Noeleen Reilly was concerned about a possible lack of face-to-face interaction.
“The people that are using the Motor Tax Office are some of the most vulnerable people in society,” she said. “I think it would be a very wrong decision to remove and turn that into a faceless office.”
The next step is to wait until the the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government – which is considering policy issues around the operation of motor tax – has come to a decision on what to do with it.