Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has apologised for holding a meeting with Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and two Green party councillors which was claimed took place in “secret”.
Mr Keegan was asked by several Independent councillors to explain why the meeting took place between officials and Government without the chair of the local authority’s transport committee.
Mr Keegan has apologised to Dublin Central Independent councillor Christy Burke, who is chairman of the Transportation Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), after he slammed last month’s meeting for contravening regulations and protocols.
Green councillors Michael Pidgeon and Claire Byrne have also apologised to Mr Burke for not informing him of the meeting.
Mr Ryan has moved to calm the controversy and now wants to meet with Mr Burke.
Cllr Burke vehemently criticised those who attended the meeting, as he and other councillors “knew nothing about it nor the proposed traffic plans.”
The meeting centred around proposed plans to ban taxis from several Dublin bus lanes and several other traffic issues such as an increase in clamping fees.
Cllr Burke said: “I received a phone-call from Mr Keegan who offered a deep apology for holding the meeting without notifying me. I believe he meant no malice by it. I was informed that the meeting was called by the Minister accompanied by two of his councillors.
“What I don’t accept is the attendance of the councillors and the Minister without the notification of every other Council member and myself as chair which contravened all regulations.”
In a statement, Independent councillors said the meeting undermined the position of the chair, who they claim was not invited.
The Council confirmed in a statement that the meeting took place on Friday, July 31st at 6.30pm.
“The request for the meeting came from the Minister. The normal protocol is that the Chief Executive accepts meeting requests from Government ministers. It is a matter for the Minister who he/she brings to the meeting.”
Council officials submitted a “traffic wish list”, outlining 17 changes they were seeking when meeting with Minister Ryan last month.
The document outlines plans to change bus lane regulations to facilitate the banning of taxis from certain bus lanes either completely or for specific periods such as during rush hours.
It also suggests banning rickshaws and calls for “appropriate regulation to address genuine safety concerns” around electric scooters, although it acknowledges their potential contribution towards “sustainable travel”.
The Council’s document also outlines a new system of “camera based enforcement” for red light running and the illegal use of bus lanes, which would be carried out by the National Transport Authority (NTA).
Barrister and councillor Deirdre Conroy added: “At our last Transport SPC meeting it was agreed that the Chair [of the committee] would attend meetings with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and DCC.
“As the Green Party Leader attended a traffic meeting with the CEO and other officials and only Green Councillors invited, this is a serious issue, and underhand, indiscriminate in relation to other public representatives in the Council and on the Transport SPC”.
Cllr Pidgeon, in an email to the SPC chairman and other councillors, said: “I think there's a misunderstanding on this ... I certainly don't want any bad blood over it. I can fully understand the concern that people have.
“The meeting ... was a fairly informal, introductory discussion, with no specific agenda or decisions made. As I understood it, the meeting was to discuss climate issues as Eamon [Ryan] is the Minister for Climate Action, not just transport as has been said - he covers multiple departments.
“Myself and Claire Byrne were invited to the meeting by Eamon, on the basis that I'm chairing the Climate Action SPC and Claire is chairing the climate action sub-committee of that SPC.
“I viewed it as a fairly standard SPC/subcommittee chair meeting ... Obviously transport has a big overlap with climate policy (especially at local authority level) and that was a part of the discussion.
Cllr Pidgeon added: “I know that Eamon would be happy to meet with transport SPC reps (including Christy as chair and whoever the SPC sees fit) and DCC officials to discuss things with his transport minister hat on, much as he was happy to meet with us with his climate minister hat on.”