Owen Keegan bows out after 10 years as Dublin City Council chief executive

‘All dictatorships must come to an end... even benevolent ones’: Tributes paid at official’s final council meeting

Tributes were paid by all parties on Dublin City Council to outgoing chief executive Owen Keegan who has left the council after 10 years at the helm.

Mr Keegan, who last month handed over his duties to deputy chief executive Richard Shakespeare, attended briefly at Monday night’s council meeting, for the first time without a tie, as Fine Gael councillor James Geoghegan noted.

“All dictatorships must come to an end at some point,” Mr Geoghegan quipped “even benevolent ones”. He said Mr Keegan had always been motivated by the public good “although the public didn’t always agree with you on that point” and he wished him a healthy and happy retirement.

Dermot Lacey of the Labour Party thanked Mr Keegan for a “lot of hard work and dedication to the city of Dublin” and said: “I think sometimes you were blamed for things that weren’t your fault, but I think sometimes you relished in that argumentative situation”. Mr Keegan was “honest about the positions” he held and he “argued for Dublin,” Mr Lacey said.


Fianna Fáil councillor Deirdre Heney described him as a “committed public servant” and thanked him in particular for ridding Griffith Avenue of heavy goods vehicles.

On behalf of the Independent group of councillors, Cieran Perry said: “I don’t think we’ve agreed on a single issue since we’ve worked together but I do acknowledge your dedication.”

Hazel de Nortúin of People Before Profit said Mr Keegan was “always transparent” in his dealings with councillors. “I won’t say we were always on the same side of the debate but I won’t leave the housing crisis and the issues we’ve had in the city solely at your feet.”

Mícheál Mac Donncha thanked him for his commitment to the Irish language. The Green Party and Social Democrats also praised his commitment to public service.

The one dissenting voice, Independent councillor John Lyons said Mr Keegan “maintained a very dysfunctional system” and this “wasn’t something that should be commended; it should be condemned”.

Addressing the councillors for the last time, Mr Keegan said he wanted to offer “a special thank you to you John for introducing balance into tonight’s proceedings”, which got a laugh from most of the chamber.

“I think it’s appropriate I should sign off in this chamber which has been the venue of so many defeats I’ve suffered over the years,” he said.

It had been “an absolute privilege to serve as executive of the council for 10 years,” he said “I have nothing but very fond memories of working for the city council.” Mr Keegan thanked the council staff and senior management team and the councillors. “I wish you all the very, very, very best and thank you.”

Mr Shakespeare will remain as acting chief executive ahead of the advertisement of the role by the Public Appointments Service.

Mr Keegan has been the public face of the council during numerous controversies in the past decade.

In early 2019, he was asked to consider his position when he said the quality of Dublin’s homeless accommodation made it an “attractive option” for some people, who might not want to leave.

In August 2021, it was again suggested he should quit for criticising those who provide tents to homeless people as it encouraged rough sleeping and the “proliferation” of tents added to perception the city was unsafe.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times