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26/10/2021

'Flippant, sarcastic and completely inappropriate': Kildare representatives condemn Owen Keegan's controversial comments against UCD's SU

Dublin City Council's Owen Keegan faces backlash over student accommodation comments

Pic: DublinCity.ie

A number of Kildare representatives from across different parties, have condemned Dublin City Council's Chief Executive Owen Keegan's controversial response to the Student's Union of University College Dublin (UCD SU).

Mr Keegan responded to a letter from UCD, in which the President of its SU, Ruairi Power, hit out at council officials for not conducting "a rudimentary level of stakeholder engagement with Higher Education Institutes prior to granting permission for conversion to tourist lets."

In his reply, Mr Keegan said: "If you genuinely believe that excess profits are being made in the PBSA market I am surprised the students’ union has not entered the market itself and provided lower-cost student accommodation for its members."

His written response has seen gone viral on Twitter.

Politicians around Ireland have hit back at Mr Keegan's comments: Government Ministers Simon Harris and Darragh O' Brien, as well as Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan, have criticised the comments made in Mr Keegan's response.

Here's what Kildare representatives are saying:

Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O' Loughlin told the Leinster Leader that she was "disappointed" by his response.

She explained: "I thought it was flippant, sarcastic and a completely inappropriate response to a genuine concern that was raised by the SU in UCD."

"Student accommodation should be developed to house and cater for students alone, and the attitude of Mr Keegan leaves a lot to be desired," she added.

Her sentiments were echoed by a fellow Newbridge politician, Independent Councillor Fiona McLoughlin-Healy, who said in a Twitter post: "Condescending and arrogant; Dublin City Council CEO’s response to students valid concerns has a tone of the untouchable about it."

"I hope councillors will exercise their oversight function of the CEO and hold him to account for his response to UCD SU."

One other Newbridge politician, Social Democrats (SD) Cllr Chris Pender, retweeted a post on the site by fellow SD member Gary Gannon, who said: "A person with more power than any other in the city of Dublin, who will never have to face an electorate or be accountable for the shambles he is presiding over."

Mr Gannon had quote-tweeted Mr Power's original tweet, which included a photograph of Mr Keegan's response to UCD SU.

The caption of Mr Power's tweet read: "DCC CEO Owen Keegan’s innovative solution to the housing crisis is…. Students’ Unions becoming property developers."

"This is in response to UCD SU's opposition to purpose-built student accommodation being converted into short-term tourist accommodation," he said, adding three upside-down smiley emojis.

People Before Profit party representative Paul Mahon joined those condemning Mr Keegan's comments, including two of his fellow party members based in Dublin, Cllrs Tina McVeigh and Hazel Norton.

He told the Leader: "This is not the first time Mr Keegan has abused his position to have a go at people who are struggling or marginalised; Dublin City is filled with derelict buildings and sites being held onto by greedy investors and developers, while citizens are reduced to living in tents along the canals and students have to defer college places because of the lack of accommodation."

"Rather than tackle the issues, Mr Keegan would rather get some attention by blaming the victims of his failed management of the council."

"The dereliction of our towns and cities is legalised vandalism on a massive scale, and people’s interests would be better served if Mr Keegan did his job to tackle that instead of expecting others to do it for him."

"If he’s not capable he should resign," he concluded.

Fine Gael Cllr for Maynooth and Deputy Mayor of Kildare County Council Tim Durkan also said to the Leader that he felt that Mr Keegan's comments were "less than helpful."

He explained: "They have only served to antagonised the situation given the current shortage of student accommodation."

"His remarks should be withdrawn and an apology issued as taking a combative and sarcastic stance does nothing to resolve the problem in hand."

Mr Power of UCD SU has since called for the resignation of Mr Keegan, according to a recent report from RTÉ News.

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