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Image: Kate O'Connell FG via Facebook

Councillor's opposition to homeless hostel 'not Nimby-ism, it's pure economics'

Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell voted against the development a homeless hostel in Dublin’s city centre.
Feb 2nd 2015, 10:27 PM 23,370 79

A FINE GAEL councillor in Dublin has been criticised tonight after referring to homelessness as a “buzz issue” during a council meeting.

Dublin City Council this evening voted in favour of a new homeless hostel to be run by Dublin Simon, which will be established in the Georgian District.

There has been strong opposition to the 30-bed hostel at the former Longfields Hotel on Fitzwilliam Street from businesses in the area, with particular concern about the impact it may have on tourism.

In a series of tweets earlier today, O’Connell told followers she would be voting against the proposal and explained her own reasons:

A number of councillors commented on the Fine Gael politician’s choice of words during the meeting, which one described as dismissive. Councillor Michael O’Brien said opposing the establishment of a homeless facility “in an affluent location” was “shameful stuff”.

However, speaking to this evening, O’Connell explained that she voted against the proposal not out of Nimby-ism, but for purely economic reasons. She added that she would have voted for the development ‘if it cost a reasonable amount of money and a plan was in place’.

“When we were asked to approve the hostel tonight, we were blindly approving it an idea of how much it would cost to retrofit, and with no timeframe for completion.”

I can see costs getting completely out of control.

She described the move as a “reactionary action”, and that a good return must be sought for the taxpayer while still doing whatever possible to tackle the homelessness crisis.

O’Connell said her use of the phrase ‘buzz issue’ was simply referring to homelessness as a “hot topic”.

It doesn’t mean we should blindly leap into developing a building for this purpose without view of costing.

She noted that the building – which she claims has already totted up almost €8 million in the initial cost of buying the property, along with maintenance and security costs – could instead be sold, and the proceeds used to buy good quality accommodation nearby.

O’Connell added that she doesn’t mind being unpopular over her vote – “It suits certain people to depict me as anti-homeless… I’m too happy to assist [in fighting homelessness] anyway I can”.

Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan

Opinion: I never knew how easy it was to become homeless in Ireland until now >

Read: There was a queue of people waiting to use Dublin’s new homeless café when it opened last night >

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Michelle Hennessy


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