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A 'bit of a joke' or a 'big idea for the city'? Councillors defend decision to back Dublin's white-water rafting attraction

The €22m project is expected to take 18 months to complete and development is expected to get under way next year.

Image: Dublin City Council

DUBLIN CITY COUNCILLORS have defended a decision to approve a white-water rafting facility in Dublin’s IFSC. 

The proposal is now set to go ahead after almost two-thirds of councillors threw their support behind it at a meeting last night. 

Last week, TheJournal.ie published a first look at what the facility will look like when it’s completed at George’s Dock – which previously hosted events like Oktoberfest and Christmas markets – at the IFSC area in the centre of Dublin.

The facility will now move another step closer after a majority, 63% of councillors, announced their support for the plans at last night’s sitting of all elected members of the council. 

Councillors voted 37-19 in favour of the facility with last night’s vote split across part lines.

As one council official told TheJournal.ie after last night’s vote: “The City Council very much welcomes [this] decision. It’s all systems go.”

Yet local representatives who voted against the facility argue that Dublin City Council should reassess its priorities. 

People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh told TheJournal.ie that the city needs to “get the basics right” before approving these projects.

“Firstly, there’s the issue of cost already massively increasing before it’s even gone through planning stages,” said MacVeigh, who voted against the proposal. 

Although Dublin Fire Brigade will benefit from the facility, MacVeigh said she “just didn’t see this as enough of a reason for voting it through”.

“When I saw the first proposal it actually seemed like a bit of a joke…I just couldn’t envision it being suitable for the location, which would enhance the location or something the city needs. 

We have invested so much in tourist infrastructure in the city and yet we’re screaming out for the basics.

“The obvious one is housing but we’re also screaming out for sustainable transport infrastructure, bicycle lanes, green space, trees,” said MacVeigh. “Aside from the cost we just can’t get the basics right.”

It’s understood that the financing for the €22 million facility will come from both Central Government grants – tourist grants and emergency services grants – as well as council funding. 

Around €5 million will be come from City Council Levies, which can’t be spent on housing but rather fall under different public realm categories. For instance, Community Facilities & Amenities. 

‘Big Ideas’

Fianna Fáil Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick defended last night’s vote in favour of the proposal and said it was an investment in Dublin’s emergency services and that it has potential to provide recreational facilities. 

“That’s much better than a beer fest which is what it has been used for,” said Fitzpatrick. “But there’s also a social and educational dimension to this.

“I see this as a big opportunity for youth work,” Fitzpatrick said. “This facility will be municipally ran, it will have all of the benefits for the emergency services and the wider community.”

Source: Smart Docklands/YouTube

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey, meanwhile, argues that “the city needs big ideas”. 

Lacey told TheJournal.ie that his concerns regarding financing for the facility were put to rest and that the “plea” from the Fire Brigade was “particularly compelling”. 

Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) has supported the plans for the white-water rafting facility from the outset and said this type of facility has proved to be invaluable for other emergency services around the world, including emergency services in parts of the UK and in New York. 

At last night’s meeting, Greg O’Dwyer, senior officer at DFB reiterated the benefits of the facility to emergency services nationwide.  

“Two things we need for training, and two of our biggest concerns, are water quality and water quantity. Water quality is a health and safety issue and we have had a number of people taking ill on courses so we have to stop using the upper Liffey area,” he said. 

“This facility will give us two big advantages. Once the quality of the water will be guaranteed for our members, they won’t be getting ill from training… we will also have the required amount of water we need and when we need it.”

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Kayaking and canoe clubs also weighed in during the public consultation stage of the planning process with many saying this type resource is unheard of in Ireland at present leaving many clubs travelling to facilities abroad. 

“Sometimes we have to take a chance,” Lacey said. “Sometimes we have to make big, bold decisions. That why I voted for it.”

Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello, meanwhile, said that, despite “positive aspects” of the facility and a presentation from Dublin Fire Brigade, “the concerns were just too much”. 

“Concerns at the energy use, concerns at accessibility for people with disabilities, concerns for access for kids and families in the local area,” Costello told TheJournal.ie. “Looking at the balance I had to vote no.”

With reporting by Conor McCrave

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