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Dublin City Council chief Owen Keegan apologises for 'sarcastic' comment to Students' Union

Owen Keegan came under heavy fire after saying that students’ unions should become developers to fix the accommodation crisis.

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of Dublin City Council has apologised for his comments about student accommodation.  

However, Owen Keegan has rejected calls from councillors to resign for his letter to UCD Students’ Union on purpose-built student accommodation, where he suggested that the union should become developers to provide “lower cost student accommodation for its members”.

Keegan said the letters contained an “element of sarcasm” which was inappropriate given the discussion concerned the student accommodation crisis.

He also remarked that there has been a “positive note” to the controversy, as it has highlighted the on-going crisis in student accommodation in Dublin

The official had been heavily criticised for the remarks, including by the Taoiseach who called on Keegan to withdraw the comments.

Students in Dublin protested against the chief executive earlier today, where some called for him to step down, while UCD SU branded the comments as “disgusting”. 

In today’s letter to councillors, he said that “particular attention” has focused on his comments, however he insisted that the point he made about students’ unions becoming developers was a “serious” suggestion.

“Students’ unions provide a valuable service and support structure for students. For decades they have successfully run shops, bars and restaurants , travel agencies etc. In many countries students’ unions provide/operate student accommodation,” he said.

“However, I accept there was also an element of sarcasm. I did not consider that the reliance on sarcasm was necessarily inappropriate in the context of an exchange of robust correspondence.”

He added: “On reflection, I now accept that the use of sarcasm was inappropriate on this occasion and I am happy to apologise for the offence I caused.”

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Sinn Féin group leader Councillor Daithi Doolan had said that Keegan’s position was “untenable” following the remarks, but the council chief has rejected the demands for his resignation, while accepting that councillors can pursue his departure through legislation.

“I do not propose to resign. If Elected Members consider that my resignation is warranted, then it is their prerogative to initiate the procedure set out in local government legislation.

“On a positive note this episode has highlighted the on-going crisis in student accommodation in Dublin, which needs to be addressed.”

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