Living Streets Dún Laoghaire: Councillor walks out of meeting after refusing to withdraw “propaganda” remark

A senior Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council official has complained that a councillor is undermining officials when staff were progressing plans according to local and national transport and climate policy — the councillor ended up walking out of the meeting after he would not withdraw his remarks.

The comment was made at a local area council meeting this evening when councillors were given an update on the Living Streets Dún Laoghaire project which includes a plan to pedestrianise George’s Street Lower, install three modal filters, and reduce car parking in order to restore a park to its original boundary.

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Cllr Jim Gildea (Fine Gael), pictured above, said he agreed with councillors who were negative towards the project but later pointedly said that he was not totally against the project.

He also strongly complained that the local area meeting was “disrupted” by the item on Living Streets Dún Laoghaire and that it should have been a special meeting or a briefing to councillors.

Cllr Gildea complained that a video shown to councillors of residents talking about modal filters at Eden Park in the Knocknashee estate in another part of the council area was “propaganda”.

Cllr Gildea said: “A comment on the Knocknashee estate, in Knocknashee, if you go out and pick the number of people who made positive comments, well, I could do the same I’m quite sure and get people who would make negative comments. And I think using that and taking up time showing us something like that is a total waste of time, it is propaganda rather than in any way informative because to me you can counterbalance any argument you want.”

Conor Geraghty, senior engineer covering Active Travel, asked Cllr Gildea to withdraw his comments that the presentation included “propaganda”.

Geraghty said: “In relation to Cllr Gildea’s comments, I suppose we’re here at another meeting where I have received a number of comments from your good self and to use the word propaganda in relation to any piece of document prepared by the council is absolutely shocking, shocking. I would expect an apology and for you to withdraw those comments.”

Straight away, Cllr Gildea said: “And you’re not getting it.”

Geraghty replied: “Chair, I feel we will have to disengage from this meeting.”

Cllr Tom Kivlehan (Green), chairperson of the committee, addressing Cllr Gildea, said: “If you can find that the facts are different, fine. But I don’t think you can stand there and call it propaganda and I do think that the word should be withdrawn and you should acknowledge it is not a word to be used in relation to the executive.”

He added: “They are not political, they are executive and have a function to carry out. And I just ask that that word be withdrawn.”

Cllr Michael Clark (Fianna Fáil) said that it was also an “unfair threat” to withdraw from the democratic members in the chamber.

Geraghty said: “In fairness Cllr Clark, when members [councillors] undermined officials get that back in the street and get it back online. We provide information which is what we are expected to do and if the members and their comments are undermining the integrity of the executive we get that back. So, I disagree with what you said.”

“And again, Cllr Gildea’s comments are factually incorrect — we set a camera crew to talk to the residents’ association and that’s the video they gave, we had no interaction, and there was no scripting. If you want to continue to undermine the executive and ignore policy objectives when we are putting them forward, that’s fine but we don’t have to participate in it,” he said.

Cllr Gildea said: “Chair, the comment I made, I made in a particular context. And I found it very, very strange that only people — in a big estate… and if the word propaganda is a problem, but, I’ll tell you what, I’ll solve the problem for Mr Geraghty, I’ll leave the meeting.”

Cllr Gildea got up and left the meeting.

Cllr Dave Quinn (SocDems) said: “I was a resident of Eden Park Road for 10 years and I know a lot of people who live in Eden Park and Knocknashee, and they are all absolutely thrilled with the developments there. Cllr Gildea and I would disagree and that’s fine we disagree on most things, but I don’t think his comments were appropriate.”

Cllr Lorraine Hall (Fine Gael) said: “I just want to put it on the record the substantial amount of work the executive has put into this — the months and the years of worth which has gone into this, the series of consultation, the hours of work, the painstaking detail gone into the design, the effort that the executive has made to brief us this evening.”

She said the work of officials was very much so appreciated.

Cllr Denis O’Callaghan (Labour), An Cathaoirleach of the council who is a member of the local area committee, said: “I want to endorse the work that Conor and his team are doing on this project. I also want to make it clear that every councillor here this evening has a genuine interest in what is a huge issue.

He added: “I support the plan, I wholeheartedly support the plan — I have gone grey and bald get Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown back in shape.”

Cllr Kivlehan said that the project would go out for a six-week public consultation and that everybody could have their say before it is brought back to a full council meeting. The consultation is expected to start next month.

Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Kivlehan said that everybody, including parties in the room, has a responsibility to support climate action, which led to the sharp intervention from Cllr Gildea outlining that he was not against the project.

Cllr Gildea claimed that he was not against followed his own comments that he is and has always been against removing buses from George’s Street, the key element of the plan. He also said he wanted to explore the idea that the planned modal filter on Tivoli Road would be replaced with a one-way street.

Another councillor — it’s not clear who — interjected that “nobody was” against the plan even after other councillors had also spoken against central sections of the plan. For example, Cllr Clark had even made out that the plan would be the downfall of Dún Laoghaire and claimed that the county might as well be renamed “Dundrum-Rathdown” — a point that officials and other councillors rejected.

READ MORE: “Hot topic” of ‘Living Streets’ Dún Laoghaire will see pedestrianisation of George’s Street, modal filters and renewal of Clarinda Park

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