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Friday 24 January 2020

€22m rafting course is 'proof council can cope with cuts', says minister

John Paul Phelan
John Paul Phelan

Minister John Paul Phelan has pointed to plans for a controversial €22m white-water rafting course as proof that Dublin City Council can "cope" with budget cuts happening next year.

The project for the city's north quays was given the green light by councillors earlier this month. It has been criticised by some amid claims the funds should be used to help tackle the capital's housing crisis.

All four local authorities in Dublin, as well as councils in Waterford, Kildare, Wicklow and Limerick are facing combined cuts of more than €21m next year because of changes to how commercial rates for Irish Water are calculated.

Dublin Mid-West TD Eoin O Broin asked ministers what contacts they've had with councils to ensure there will be no loss of services.

The Sinn Fein TD told the Dail that Dublin City Council is set to lose €9m and South Dublin County Council more than €4m. Fine Gael junior housing minister Mr Phelan said local authority revenues are up 25pc to €5bn over the last four years.

He said the changes in how Irish Water will contribute to councils were sought by the local authority sector and the majority would see increases in revenue.

Mr Phelan said Waterford and Wicklow were seen as facing significant challenges and one-off compensatory payments are being made in both of those cases.

"In light of recent decisions by Dublin City Council, in relation to the backing of the white-water rafting initiative on the quays, it was felt that authority - and some of the other Dublin ones - had the financial wherewithal to be able to cope with changes," added Mr Phelan.

Mr O Broin said: "The vast majority of funding for the white-water rafting facility in Dublin City Council is going to come from central government."

He said both Fine Gael and Sinn Fein councillors had supported the plan, but added: "I don't know too much about the background to it so I'll leave that where it is."

Councillors approved plans for the white-water rafting centre by a majority of 37 votes to 19.

Dublin Mid-West TD Eoin O Broin
Dublin Mid-West TD Eoin O Broin

Crazy

However, not everyone was in favour of the ambitious project.

Director of Inner City Helping Homeless, Cllr Anthony Flynn, described the proposal as "crazy" given that Ireland is in the middle of a housing crisis.

It is intended to be a major tourist attraction, but will also be used as a water rescue training facility.

Former Lord Mayor Christy Burke described the current barren basin as an ugly site.

"It reminds you of a huge open grave that's just left there. So I welcome this," he said.

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