By Rose Barrett
DUBLIN CITY manager Owen Keegan has defended the council’s plans for a €25m white water rafting facility at George’s Dock on the River Liffey.
Doubling down on his support for what has been dubbed a “vanity project” he stressed funding for the project would not come from the budget for housing or local services.
In the first of a series of webinars, ‘Chu & Chats with the Lord Mayor’, Mr Keegan also hit out at what he described as negative media coverage of the issue.
He said: “Housing will always be our number one priority. I make no apologies for having a wider focus than purely housing.”
The chief executive added that there was “an extraordinary appetite for bad news stories” within the media and that a negative story gets wide coverage whereas “good ones don’t”.
Tourism and sports groups have backed the contentious project which has more than doubled in cost – but the public backlash has been scathing.
Just days ago Fianna Fail TDs called for the project to be scrapped, while neighbouring residents have pleaded for an outdoor swimming pool in its place which will serve the local community.
Mr Keegan said: “Primarily, this project will, we hope, be funded by Fáilte (Ireland) money and by grants from the State in respect of the swift water rescue facility; and other revenue streams…
“Everyone accepts the priority of council housing, we are a housing authority, and the bulk of our revenue, our current and capital expenditure, quite rightly, is on council housing.
“But we also have to a broad range of objectives, we are responsible for the road network, we have to invest in that, in footpaths, sustainable travel. We talked about the importance of parks and recreational facilities, and sports facilities, there’s huge pressure to upgrade those.
“We want to invest in the cycling network, we have a broader economic development and that includes assisting and promoting in the promotion of tourism, which is important to the Dublin economy.”
Lord Mayor, Cllr Hazel Chu, said there “needs to be scrutiny on these things” to ensure money was not being spent on Y over X.
There was also some discussion about Government funding for housing and other services and the lack of autonomy for councils.
Mr Keegan said: “The reality is whoever pays the piper, calls the tunes. Housing construction is 100% funded by the State, it seems inevitable to me that central government retains a high level of control.
“We end up being the executive agency on behalf of the State. Our elected members may hold a view… it’s almost like ‘micro managing’ of local authorities by central government.”