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File photo of an ICHH outreach support vehicle Sam Boal/

Anthony Flynn's DCC seat may remain vacant if councillors can't agree on replacement

Councillors have to date failed to reach a consensus on who should fill the seat left vacant after Flynn’s death.

DUBLIN CITY COUNCILLORS are set to discuss who will replace the late Anthony Flynn on the council at their monthly meeting on Monday.

A vote on the issue was due to take place on 4 October but was deferred amid a split on how to proceed.

The issue was not on the agenda for November’s meeting but is due to be discussed at tonight’s meeting.

A vote on Flynn’s successor may happen but it is likely to be deferred once again. Councillors are also considering leaving the seat vacant if they can’t agree on a candidate.

As reported by The Journal in October, councillors are at odds over who should replace the late founder of Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH).

A number of independent councillors backed Geraldine Molloy, an ICHH volunteer, in October to fill the seat and her name is expected to be in the mix again tonight. It’s understood that Anthony Flynn’s family also supports Molloy’s nomication.

However, a number of other councillors want the vote deferred until ICHH has been completely wound down and the various investigations into the charity have concluded.

A number of councillors are of the view that someone with links to ICHH should not be co-opted to the council while investigations are continuing into allegations of sexual assault against Flynn. The 34-year-old north inner city councillor was found dead in tragic circumstances at his home in East Wall in August.

An internal report for ICHH, released in September, detailed four serious allegations made against Flynn. Barrister Remy Farrell SC has been appointed to conduct a review of the controversy surrounding these allegations.

Former Workers’ Party councillor Éilis Ryan has also been proposed as a possible candidate. Independent councillor Mannix Flynn has backed her nomination, but Ryan still needs another councillor to second it. The activist lost her seat to Anthony Flynn by 46 votes in the 2019 local elections.

Speaking to The Journal ahead of Monday’s meeting, Ryan said it would be “an absolute disgrace” if the seat is left vacant because councillors can’t agree on a candidate. Such a move would be “extremely unusual” but may occur if there’s a stalemate, she said.

“I think it shows up the fact that the current system is not a good way of doing things,” she said, adding that leaving the seat unfilled would place people living in Dublin’s north inner city in a “very weak” position due to the lack of representation on the council.

Ryan is now living in Cork and said if she did receive the backing of enough councillors to get the seat, the Workers’ Party would fill it with a local activist. However, given the lack of support from other councillors for this proposal, this scenario is unlikely.

Mannix Flynn told The Journal it’s better for the vote to be deferred until the various investigations are concluded.

“We need to exercise huge caution, no one is comfortable with rushing a vote. This is an unprecedented situation. We have to be really mindful of all the sensitivities here,” he said.

A spokesperson for DCC said they did not wish to comment on plans to fill the seat as it is “a matter for the elected members to co-opt” a new councillor.

How is a council seat filled?

When a council seat becomes vacant, it’s generally straightforward to fill when the outgoing candidate belongs to a political party. For example – if a councillor from Fine Gael is elected to the Dáil or passes away, Fine Gael chooses another member of the party to fill the seat.

Things get slightly more complicated when it’s an independent seat. In this situation it would typically be up to the independents to propose a candidate, but they are split.

In some circumstances, an independent councillor may nominate their own replacement before they vacate the seat.

DCC’s standing orders state the following: “The vacancy shall be filled by a nominee selected by the former Councillor and notified to the Chief Executive’s Office to be held in confidence by that office.”

However, if the councillor did not nominate a replacement, as is the case here – “the filling of the vacancy shall fall to the full Council”.

Hypothetically every councillor present at Monday’s meeting could nominate someone to fill Flynn’s seat, though this is very unlikely to happen.

A number of council members pointed out that although independent councillors on DCC are generally left-leaning and share certain views, they don’t all see eye to eye. By their very nature, they are not part of a formal group.

‘Be as caring as you can’

In the aftermath of the allegations made against Flynn, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) issued a statement in late September noting that the organisation was “absolutely shocked by reports of very serious allegations relating to the organisation, Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH)”.

“We are particularly distressed that some of our most vulnerable citizens may have been subjected to serious sexual abuse while seeking support and assistance for their homeless situation,” DRHE added.

The statement also encouraged people who needed counselling or advice to contact the HSE. On foot of the statement being issued, DCC officials expected an increase in calls to its offices about the situation.

In an internal email sent to DCC employees on 28 September, staff members were advised to so “be as open and caring” as possible if they received any calls about the matter.

The email noted: “DCC has issued a statement about the recent media reports relating to the former CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless. We are concerned for any service users that may be affected by the revelations. The statement urges any further victims to contact the Gardaí and also states that any service user that has been affected by the reports can contact us for referral to a counselling service.

“The HSE is providing this confidential counselling service for anyone affected. The first point of contact in the statement is the family phone 087 3266630 between 10am — 4pm, if you get any calls from any service user affected, please in the first instance assure them of confidentiality, be sympathetic and refer them to the counselling service contact details below.

As I am sure you can understand it will be difficult for a service user to make this call, so be as open and caring as you can and come to me if you need any help.

“It is important that if someone calls they know that they are not through to a help line, we are referring them to the counselling service. Calls may come in on our other numbers so be prepared. I appreciate that this is an unusual situation for us to deal with but I know that you will handle any calls professionally and sympathetically.”

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A spokesperson for DCC confirmed that only a very small number of calls were received by employees in recent weeks.

“As this is a confidential process we will not comment other than to say there have been a small number of contacts (less than five) to the confidential phone line. These callers were referred to the HSE’s counselling service,” they said in a statement.

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