Councillors defend plan to splash out €22m on raft centre
Plans to build a €22m white water course in Dublin's Docklands are a bonus for the area that will not detract from high-priority issues such as housing, local councillors have said.
Dublin city councillors voted 37 to 19 on Monday night in favour of approving construction of the white water rafting and slalom/polo pool at the now derelict site at George's Dock.
It would also house new buildings, flood defences and a water treatment facility.
The fact that the preliminary cost - pegged at €12m - is now projected to be €22m, angered some councillors who questioned why the council is spending vast sums of money when Dublin is suffering from the worst housing crisis in modern history.
Independent councillor Anthony Flynn, founder of the Inner City Helping Homeless charity, was among the councillors who voted against it.
"I just find it unbelievable that DCC can splash out this much money on a facility when there are thousands of people without a home," he said.
"They're completely out of touch with reality, and it seems all these decisions are being forced down councillors' throats," he said during Monday's council meeting.
However, his council coll- eague Christy Burke, representing the north inner city where the site is located, said he knows only too well about the plight of the homeless.
The former lord mayor, who does weekly outreach patrols for Dublin's homeless and rough sleepers, said the issue of the project detracting from housing the homeless and social housing construction is a red herring.
"I know we have a crisis. I'm out there on the front line, but my support for the project is not going to stop homeless issues," he said.
Despite an outcry from some critics on social media, when visuals of the project were released last week, Mr Burke said money for the project is not coming out of funds that would otherwise go to housing.
"There's €13m coming from Government tourism grants as well as Docklands development levies," he told the Herald.
The council was told that around €5m would come from development levies and €4m from the council's capital reserves, as well as the €13m from central Government grants.
However, Mr Burke said one of the main selling points for him is the fact that the facility would also be used as a water rescue training centre for Dublin Fire Brigade, which now has to pay overnight travel expenses to send its members to train in water rescue techniques in Belfast.
"They do 100 water emergency rescues a year," he said.
The fact that "there are guaranteed jobs for local people" to construct and staff the centre, as well as guaranteed access for local children "who jump off bridges with no fear into the river", were other selling points, Mr Burke added.
Labour Party inner city councillor Joe Costello said he also supported the project, despite his initial qualms about it.
"I was conflicted with the issue and I wrote to council chief executive Owen Keegan about it and I got assurances that it would be fully accessible to the local community," he said.
"It's an area that had been deprived."
He agreed with Mr Burke that the issue of funding for housing is like comparing "apples with oranges" and gave it his blessing.