Council chief irked over Extinction Rebellion stay in Merrion Square

Senior management unaware of local decision to sanction park stay, says Owen Keegan

Extinction Rebellion activists in Merrion Square for the duration of their Action week. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Extinction Rebellion activists in Merrion Square for the duration of their Action week. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has ordered an internal investigation into a decision by council staff to allow members of Extinction Rebellion to stay in Merrion Square.

The environmental protesters occupied the park last week with more than 20 tents, a yurt and marquees, in contravention of bylaws that prohibit overnight stays there.

Mr Keegan said he was “extremely unhappy” with how the matter was dealt with by council staff.

In a letter to a resident who complained about the group’s use of the park, Mr Keegan said Extinction Rebellion “did not seek or secure the agreement of the city council to set up camp in the park”.

However, he said that after they set up camp a decision was made by “local parks management” not to evict the group but to advise that “they could remain”.

Mr Keegan said senior council management was unaware of this decision until after the camp was established and Extinction Rebellion had been advised they could remain.

“I am extremely unhappy with the manner in which this was handled. There seems to have been a clear breach of the city council’s parks bylaws and of the requirement in the Code of Conduct for Local Authority Employees which requires officers of the council to act impartially at all times,” he said. He added that the matter is now “subject to an internal city council investigation”.

Mr Keegan went on to say that “as part of the investigation a protocol will be put in place to ensure that should a similar issue arise at any stage in the future it will be handled differently by the city council”.

Independent Cllr Mannix Flynn said allowing Extinction Rebellion to stay in the park at night set a “dangerous precedent” for its use.“Others who want to stay in the park could now go into the courts and win their case.”

Mr Flynn said it also gave the impression that the council supported the group.

Dublin City Council must be neutral as an authority. If some official is consenting for the park to be used by a particular protest group, it is siding with that group and for any official to do that creates a prejudice.”

The group has since left the park.