When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
This week, Owen Keegan showed Dublin who he was in the form of a biting, sarcastic and wildly out-of-touch dismissal of student housing concerns. But should we be that surprised by the nature of his response? Let’s not forget, this is the unelected C.E.O. of Dublin City Council- a man so out of touch with the genuine needs of this city that he’s spent the last few years gluttonously campaigning for an exorbitant whitewater rafting facility in the space-strapped city centre, all while Dublin’s true culture slowly starves to death around him.
Students and student media weren’t the only ones to object to Keegan’s comments. His response to the UCDSU has made national headlines and even earned him a telling off from a few disapproving members of the Dáil.
Simon Harris took particular offence, saying that ”It shows a real failure to understand the serious challenge that people are facing. It also shows complete and utter disrespect to students.”
It’s great to hear student concerns discussed at a national level. But what about genuine, permanent accountability for Mr Keegan? Besides his half-throated apology, little can be done about his behaviour (short of impeachment or his own resignation, both incredibly unlikely). Unfortunately, you can’t really threaten the seat of a man not beholden to any popular electorate. The power associated with running Dublin is just too great to be wielded effectively by one person.
Of course, the independence of public officials is absolutely a worthwhile pursuit. However, these remarks, as well as Keegan’s past decisions, demonstrate that the protections afforded to the D.C.C. Chief Executive allow the officeholder to be independent not only from ill influence but from reality and common sense.
As frustrating as we all find Marie Canoette, he is only a symptom of the greater illness that plagues this city. Dublin is a victim of its own success: development, most especially since the arrival of the multinationals, has left this city lurching with growing pains. For one, this low rise city cannot accommodate the influx of persons looking for a place to stay, so beds simply go to the highest bidder. All the while, prime property in the city centre is left collecting dust by developers whose priority is not the health of this city, but instead their bottom line. Compared to our continental counterparts, public transport is incredibly limited, and public space is sparse. There are few places to exist in Dublin for free: comfort in and enjoyment of this city are privileges reserved for those who can afford it. And like Lenny hugging the rabbits, the voracious (if misplaced) appetite of tourists is, ironically, killing the “real Dublin” they came to see. Abandon all hope, ye in the Big Smoke: the Boom is Back, and in its wake, it will leave no survivors, only hotels.
Not all is Halloween horror. Many others in the community have taken this opportunity to show us who they are as well. The UCDSU moved quickly to capitalize on this week’s frustration by redirecting it into a successful demonstration right on D.C.C.’s doorstep, backing up SU President Ruairí Power’s promise of a radical and politically active student union. Just a few days earlier, hundreds gathered on the same steps to protest the destruction of the Cobblestone and parts of Merchant’s Arch, many of them U.C.D. students frustrated with what’s being done to their city (be it native or adopted). *The College Tribune commends these protestors for speaking up.
But there is only so much that demonstrations and petitions can do to change this city for the better. If that were true, the City Council offices where these protests were happening would instead still be Wood Quay, a world-renowned Viking heritage site, rather than an ugly grey growth on the side of the Liffey. As long as an unaccountable, inconsiderate Chief Executive calls the shots in this city, Dublin will continue its proud tradition of cutting off its nose to spite its face.
The question is not whether Dublin is progressing, but rather whether this progress is headed in the right direction. Based on past performance, we have little faith in the ability of those running this town to account for the needs of students, the working class, and the most vulnerable in society. Changes need to be made in order to more effectively hold figures like Owen Keegan accountable for their mistakes, especially when those mistakes risk the future of this city.