Dublin students protest outside Dublin City Council over Owen Keegan remarks

Christine O'Mahony

UCD Student Union organised a protest outside Dublin City Council Offices on Wednesday October the 13th and were joined by other students and representatives of Trinity College, DCU, IADT, TUD and NCAD.

It is estimated that around 200 protestors were in attendance.

Students were outraged by a letter that DCC CEO Owen Keegan sent to UCD SU President, Ruairí Power, where he wrote “if you genuinely believe that excess profits are being made in the PBSA market, I am surprised the Student Union has not entered the market itself and provided lower cost student accommodation for its members.”

This was branded as out of touch by the UCD SU it called for his resignation.

Students were joined by housing and 3rd level education spokespeople from the major political parties.

Speakers included: Richard Boyd Barrett (PBP), Cllr Tina McVeigh (PBP), Cian O’Callaghan (Social Democrats), Rebecca Moynihan (Labour), Rose Conway Walsh (Sinn Féin), Cllr Cat O’Driscoll (Social Democrats), as well as the Presidents and Welfare Officers from several Student Unions.

The College View contacted Ruairí Power about the comments and protest.

“Mr. Keegan has apologised for the sarcastic nature of the remark which we fully accept. What’s far less acceptable is the continued justification of the conversions. The 2016 circular he references in his communications does allow discretion for the council to grant conversions where merited. We strongly disagree with the decision to allow hundreds of PBSA beds be converted into tourist accommodation.”

“The ideology that guaranteeing the revenue streams of PBSA providers is to be given higher priority over the clear demand for accommodation is detrimental and has no place leading the largest local authority in the
state,” he stated.

“There are thousands of students in UCD and other Dublin-based colleges who are yet to find suitable accommodation. UCDSU had to hire a full-time accommodation officer to deal with the level of difficulty students are having. Every week, students burned out from massive commutes, living in precarious circumstances or unable to meet rental costs present to us. The scale of the crisis is massive.”

Ross Boyd, DCU SU’s VP for Community and Citizenship also got in contact with The College View about the accommodation situation in DCU:

“Many students with the return to campus have been left disappointed with 4 students for every 1 place available on-campus, leading to off-campus options quickly filling in record time. This has forced students to either commute long hours, couch surf, or stay in hotels and hostels, and shows a failed approach by successive governments to deal with the worsening situation. Mr Keegan’s comments are insensitive and a failed belief that the private market can solve a decades-long crisis.”

“I was proud that the full DCUSU sabbatical team attended, including the Humanities Rep Glen. It showed how frustrated students are, but also how it has revitalised the student movement in calling for action on the Student Housing Crisis, and the ever-increasing costs of being a college student.”

 Keegan has apologised for his comment but has informed councillors he will not be resigning his position.

It is now up to members of the council to initiate the process of removing him as CEO. Dublin Sinn Féin councillors stated that they are keen on Keegan resigning his post, with Cllr Daithí Doolan saying that his position is “untenable”.

Christine O’Mahony

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