Dublin City Council chief Owen Keegan admits “element of sarcasm” in comment on student housing as he apologizes


DUBLIN City Council chief executive Owen Keegan apologized to the mayor and councilors for his comment on student housing, admitting that there was an “element of sarcasm” in a controversial letter to the president of the ‘UCD Students Union.

r Keegan said he would not resign but said if board members considered his resignation justified, they were free to initiate the process to remove him as CEO of the local authority.

In a letter to the UCD student union regarding purpose-built student housing, Mr. Keegan suggested to union president Ruairí Power that the union should become developers to provide “low-cost student housing to the public. his members “.

In his letter to councilors on Wednesday, Mr. Keegan wrote: “I accept that there was also an element of sarcasm. I did not consider the use of sarcasm to be necessarily appropriate in the context of a robust exchange of correspondence.

“However, upon reflection, I now accept that (sic) the use of sarcasm was inappropriate on this occasion and I am happy to apologize for the offense I have caused.”

Mr Keegan’s letter follows calls from Taoiseach Micheál Martin to withdraw his remarks, a view that was supported by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien .

Sinn Féin advisers have said Keegan is expected to resign over the remarks, while Social Democrats are calling for a special board meeting in the coming days to discuss the CEO’s comments.

Mr Keegan’s apology comes as students protesting the lack of affordable housing called for his resignation.

The protest at council offices at Wood Quay came just days after Mr Keegan was criticized for comments he made in a response letter to the UCD students’ union, saying he was “surprised” that the union has not entered the real estate market in order to provide low cost housing for its members if it believes that excess profits are being made on student rentals.

The letter was called “sarcastic” by students and politicians.

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Power told Independent.ie that even after Mr Keegan’s apology, he still did not trust him.

“We appreciate the apologies for the sarcastic nature of the comments,

“We still have no confidence in his ability to overcome the crisis, this is not a personal reproach or offending ourselves because of it, we will get over it, it is not our skin. back but we need a change in city council policy.

Mr Power said Mr Keegan’s letter of apology was not sent to the UCD Students’ Union.

He said there had been a series of correspondence between the union and Mr Keegan regarding the conversion of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) into tourist stays for the 2021/22 academic year.

“We take serious exceptions to these conversions granted by the city council. We have written to the CEO of City Council to express our concern about the level of conversions, and his response has been quite unsatisfactory and contemptuous of the plight of students in the context of the massive supply and affordability crises we are experiencing, ”he said. he declared.

Responding to Mr Keegan’s comments, Mr Power said the union can recover, but has displayed an “underlying attitude that it is not concerned about the level of private market interference and to artificially inflate rents in the city “.

“We have no confidence in his mandate. The housing and homelessness crises were exacerbated under his leadership, which is why we are here, calling on the one hand for a change of leadership and on the other hand for a change in central government policy, ”he said. he added.

Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit said he was “exasperated” by what Keegan told the students.

“It is a message from the senior county council official that he does not care about their plight, their suffering or their hardships and besides he does not seem to really care about the fabric of the city that has been destroyed by real estate investors and people who are simply maximizing the value of the property rather than actually meeting the housing needs of the population, ”he added, saying Mr. Keegan should step down if he does not did not apologize to the students.

Similar calls for Mr Keegan’s resignation have been made by Rose Conway-Walsh of Sinn Féin, who said students pay more than € 1,000 a month for accommodation, and others are postponing their classes or leaving spend three or four hours a day in college and university.

Sadhbh Gowran, a student from Sligo, told Independent.ie that she and her sister pay almost € 1,000 a month to share a room near Connolly Station in Dublin.

They moved to the capital at the start of the summer because they believed that if they left it later they would not get housing in August.

“It’s a single room, but not just for one person in our case, we have to share this space together. I just think it’s ridiculous, ”she said.

“None of my friends have been able to come to Dublin because they just can’t afford it. They need to find other universities that are more affordable for them. I don’t know anyone else in my course who rents, they have to make long daily trips instead, ”she added.

Orla Browne, a student at UCD, Kilkenny, said she was paying “well over € 1,000 a month” for a room in Portobello with a toilet, shower and wardrobe. “It’s basically someone’s attic,” she said.

His friend Luka Simic, from Brussels, pays € 800 per month for what he described as a semi-basement in Portobello.

“We looked at other locations, but they were the only ones in our budgets,” Orla said.

Chloe Gavin of Westmeath said students are put at the bottom of the pile when it comes to landlords, who prefer to rent to families or other people.

She also criticized the price of purpose-built student accommodation which she said can cost € 19,000 for two semesters.

“It’s just a slap in the face for anyone who wants accessible college education,” Ms. Gavin said.

Mr Simic said he knows of students commuting between three and three hours from college because they cannot afford to live in Dublin.

“There are also some students who are simply homeless. I think one of them lived in a motorhome. It is getting ridiculous, ”he explained.

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