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Students protest Dublin City Council over CEO Keegan’s comments on student housing

The protest heard several calls for Owen Keegan to resign as the council’s chief executive.

Today's protest in Dublin.
Today's protest in Dublin.

STUDENTS GATHERED OUTSIDE Dublin City Council this afternoon to stage a protest over comments about student accommodation from the council’s CEO Owen Keegan.

The demonstration outside the council’s building on Wood Quay was attended by students from several third level institutions along with politicians from various opposition parties.

The protesters chanted slogans and carried placards calling for Keegan to resign from his position following his controversial remarks. 

In a letter to UCD Students’ Union President Ruairí Power, the chief executive suggested that the union should become developers to provide “lower cost student accommodation for its members”. 

UCD Students’ Union said Keegan’s comments were “disgusting”.

Along with students’ union representatives from several third level institutions, the demonstration was addressed by Sinn Féin’s Rose Conway-Walsh, Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit and Councillor Cat O’Driscoll of the Social Democrats.

While addressing the crowd, Conway-Walsh called on Keegan to resign as CEO of Dublin City Council.

Speaking to The Journal, Conway-Walsh said Keegan’s position is untenable.

“No right-minded person could stand over what he said the other day, I think his comments were beneath contempt, for somebody in his position who is responsible for the delivery of accommodation in Dublin,” Sinn Féin’s Higher and Further Education spokesperson said.

I think it makes his position untenable. I’m not in the business of calling for people to resign but I was absolutely shocked. It took me hours to even think that someone could say what he said.

Aoife Cronin of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union said Keegan’s comments were “blatantly disrespectful to students and renters as a whole”.

Cronin added that Keegan appears to view the controversy as a “public relations disaster he can weather out”.

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“Today’s protest and the consistent efforts of students – as well as some politicians and groups here – shows that this is not going away,” Cronin said.

This pressure against Owen Keegan is not going anywhere. And we’re not going to take those comments lying down.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told The Journal that Keegan’s comments were “dismissive” of students. 

“I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was facile. I just didn’t understand the point he was making,” Martin said.

The Keegan controversy was discussed at a Dublin City Council housing committee meeting today where several councillors said that the CEO should apologise and withdraw his remarks.

Councillors including Sinn Féin’s Daithí Doolan and Independent Cieran Perry called on Keegan to resign from his position over the remarks. 

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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