Thursday 14 November 2019

City Chief apologises for controversial 'unhelpful votes' remark in Poolbeg letter

Dublin City Chief Executive Owen Keegan
Dublin City Chief Executive Owen Keegan

Adam Cullen and Niall O’Connor

Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan has apologised to councillors over his controversial remarks relating to Poolbeg Incinerator. revealed this week that Mr Keegan told the company behind the Incinerator that "two unhelpful votes" by councillors against the controversial project were no reason for concern.

In a letter to the president and CEO of the US-based company Covanta last year, Mr Keegan said a lack of political support for the €500m public-private partnership project should pose no threat to it going ahead.

The correspondence followed in the wake of a special meeting called by Mr Keegan last September at which 50 of 52 members of the council voted against the controversial project going ahead.

Read More: Lord Mayor calls on city chief to apologise for Poolbeg

But the comments about the decision by councillors to vote against the project caused a political storm and led to demands for Mr Keegan’s resignation by independent councillor Mannix Flynn.

But in an email to councillors this evening, Mr Keegan apologised for his language.

“I understand that the robust language in the letter has caused offence to a number of Councillor,” he said.

 “It was not my intention to cause offence to Councillors. I have no hesitation in apologising for the language used and for any offence caused,” he added.

Mr Keegan also released the letter he sent to Covanta at the request of the Lord Mayor.

 In response to concerns raised by the then Covanta CEO Anthony Orlando following the vote, Mr Keegan said calling the special meeting "undoubtedly" gave him "greater control over the process and the release of information".

Read More: Council chief told Poolbeg firm vote could be ignored

The letter, released under Freedom of Information laws, outlined how a number of factors had contributed to the vote against the incinerator, but Mr Keegan stressed that the decision did not lie with the elected members.

"The decision to proceed with the project is legally a matter for the four Dublin local authority chief executives," he wrote.

"Paradoxically the fact that it is a decision for the CEs creates a situation where elected members can respond favourably to the relatively small number of local objectors.

"I appreciate how someone unfamiliar with the Irish local government process might view the developments with some concern," he wrote.

He added that a lack of "political support should in no way lead" the company "to question the wisdom of processing with the development".

Mr Keegan said that another reason a vote had failed to pass was because the council was "largely dominated by anti-government parties and independent councillors".

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