Friday 13 December 2019

Anger as Dempsey makes comeback in culture role

Ex-Fianna Fail minister Noel Dempsey who has taken a position as chairman of the newly set up Temple Bar Company. Picture: David Conaghy
Ex-Fianna Fail minister Noel Dempsey who has taken a position as chairman of the newly set up Temple Bar Company. Picture: David Conaghy

Niall O'Connor and John Downing

THE appointment of former Fianna Fail minister Noel Dempsey as chairman of a company hoping to revive Temple Bar has sparked criticism.

Mr Dempsey – who receives a €119,000 annual Oireachtas pension – has returned to the public spotlight more than three years after stepping down as TD.

However, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said Mr Dempsey's appointment would remind people of his "massive pension pot".

Mr Dempsey has been tasked with reviving the Temple Bar area, which has suffered reputational damage in recent years following a series of highly damaging controversies surrounding the now defunct Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

The ex-Fianna Fail minister, who infamously denied that the government was holding talks with the IMF days before Ireland's bailout was announced, will now take up a position with the non-profit Temple Bar Company.

The organisation, which is completely separate to Temple Bar Cultural Trust and privately owned, said that Mr Dempsey's work in the early days of the modern transformation of Temple Bar had given him "considerable experience and knowledge about the area".

"Temple Bar as a region employs 10,000 people annually and has a turnover of just under a billion euro," according to Chief Executive Martin Harte. "Most of the businesses are family-run, and it is a vital part of Dublin's economy."

But Mr Boyd Barrett said: "I think people will be aghast at his appointment and it will remind people of his massive pension pot that he and other members of the disastrous Fianna government walked away with." Mr Dempsey, who was Environment Minister in the earlier days of the development of the Temple Bar area, said this week he was pleased to be involved with the business, cultural and voluntary sector enterprises who had all come together to advance its development.

"The group have done a number of studies on various topics and they are now looking to put some of their ideas into practice for the betterment of Temple Bar. They have also decided to bring in some outside people to help them realise these ambitions," he told the Irish Independent. The former Fianna Fail TD has been involved in public affairs consultancy since he quit national politics in January 2011.

He was a TD for Meath from 1987 to 2011 and also served in a number of government departments as Minister for Environment, Education, Communications and Transport between 1997 and 2011, giving him a total pension of some €119,000 a year.

For most of his time in politics he was credited with helping Fianna Fail deliver three out of the five seats in what was then the single constituency of Meath. Now aged 61, he has indicated the he does not intend returning to politics, and he is understood to be receiving a 'nominal sum' for his new role.

Temple Bar was one of the few areas of Dublin to retain its old medieval pattern of winding streets. There was uproar in the 1980s when mass demolition and the building of a bus terminus were proposed for the area.

Since the early 1990s, in an initiative backed by Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, the area was developed as an artistic quarter.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section