TIME TO CAMP OUTSIDE DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL CEO OWEN KEEGAN'S RESIDENCE?

Meet one of the best examples of a wanton piece of shit that the establishment has to offer; Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan. Sometimes eloquent or articulate language cannot be justifiably used when the subject in question is such a turd. Mr. Keegan was recently awarded €10,000 per annum on top of his annual salary of €200,000. An increase given despite a council funding deficit of between €46 and €50 million. His salary will again increase in October 2023, bringing it to €220,000. In return for this obscene figure, provided by the Irish taxpayer, Mr. Keegan appears to think insolence, belligerence and callousness are traits applicable to successfully doing his job. His preferred modus operandi is to dedicate himself to relegating the homeless to nothing more than a dirty little secret. Perhaps preferring if they would join the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of people in this country who are currently being forced to couch surf at the mercy of family and friends. Better still, he might be happy if he could employ his DCC wardens to round up and the homeless like stray dogs. Either way, out of sight is conveniently out of mind.

But of course it's not just the homeless that he appears to take umbrage with. Mr. Keegan has labelled unpaid volunteers as "virtue signallers" in a spectacular display of disrespect toward good people providing the temporary stop gaps that the council do not. A flimsy tent is, of course, not an adequate form of shelter. Providing neither privacy nor protection. However, this is clearly not Mr. Keegan's primary worry in any case. He appears rather more concerned with how distasteful it is to be visually confronted with tents occupied by human beings who aren't afforded his level of comfort and privilege in life. His attitude smacks of utter contempt and zero empathy, and while his comments do illustrate a lack of restraint, I imagine he would like to put forth much stronger views on the how's and why's of the circumstances of such people, if he felt he could get away with doing so.

On the other hand these groups (that he refers to as as "promoting and sustaining rough sleeping") treat the homeless with dignity and respect, understanding that nobody in life aspires to end up on the streets. Those who experience long term homelessness face a drastically shortened life expectancy. The mean age of death among homeless women is 38, and the mean age of death among homeless men is 44. The average life expectancy for the general population is 80 years old for women and 75 years old for men. This is according to a study titled 'Mortality Amongst the Homeless Population in the Dublin Region', (carried out by Dr Joe Barry & Dr Jo-Hanna Ivers of the Institute of Public Health, TCD, & Bernie O'Donoghue Hynes of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive).

For those with complicated issues such as addiction, descent into homelessness can more often than not have it's roots traced back to nuanced childhood trauma. Any person with common sense would not fail to understand this. Mr. Keegan likely does comprehend this perfectly well, but lacks the humanity to care. Nor perhaps does he have compassion for those who may be without significant trauma or addiction, but whose journey into homelessness was one that arose from not being able to find or afford accommodation due to the housing crisis. Which some may argue is a crisis of design. It is no longer unusual for people to find themselves in this kind of predicament despite holding down employment. Recently Offaly County Councillor Ken Smollen put out an appeal for a homeless family on Facebook. The family had apparently lost their accommodation in Dublin, which they could no longer afford, despite both parents being gainfully employed. With no other option, they sought help from the council. They were offered a tent, only to be told that if they accepted it their children aged 2, 4 and 6 years would be removed by TUSLA and put in State care.

It has escaped the attention of councils and Mr. Keegan that it is their responsibility to ensure families and individuals are not facing these kinds of situations in the first place within their jurisdiction, and if for one reason or another they can't or won't access emergency accommodation, then it's in the DCC's homeless services remit to provide some form of basic shelter, even if that is just a tent. In cases where there is children involved then better alternatives must be found rather than presenting extremely pressurised parents with an impossibly cruel dilemma. To fail to do so is an extraordinary dereliction of duty.

If councils were not paying out huge salaries or squandering funds on propagandist endeavours and other questionable ventures, they would be better placed to provide adequate accommodation. In perhaps the virtue signalling defining moment of 2022, Mr. Keegan stood over allocating tax payers money to line our capital city with an extreme over-abundance of Ukrainian flags, which Irish homeless people slept beneath for many months in 2022. But I digress, Mr. Keegan has the bare faced cheek to accuse others of insincere moral grandstanding. He chooses to ignore his hypocrisy of course, as those of his ilk routinely do these days.

He also conveniently chooses to ignore that people sleep rough rather than in emergency accommodation out of sheer desperation. While the following is not an argument against hostels, it does shed light on why some homeless people won't use them. Teenage minors without addiction issues are often inappropriately offered placement in adult hostels where substance abuse is rife as are avenues into unsavoury ways to survive. There is also a high risk of violence in these chaotic places. Moreover, they are extremely restrictive and undermine the autonomy of adult service users. Regardless of an individual's circumstances they are without exception treated as though they are untrustworthy children, instead of being afforded any freedom or independence. Much like being in a lockdown scenario in ways. Many hostels are essentially businesses.That is, privately owned buildings, whose owners are awarded generous council tenders. In return many hostels charge service users quite a large proportion of their social welfare for their accommodation (accrued daily or weekly). This is often far in excess above what is standard for residents of HAP or other housing schemes and does not always come with the option of meals or cooking facilities. In exchange there are strict rules such as no guests, curfews, and rules that determine you must vacate the premises for much of the day. In some places talking with other residents in common areas or inviting them into your room is forbidden. All this makes life excessively difficult and lonely for many homeless people, already vastly disempowered by the nature of their circumstances. In emergency accommodation it is also harder for interpersonal and romantic relationships to be maintained, and thus further barriers to a regularised life are presented. Pets are also disallowed. To note, some hotels and IPAS centres housing refugees do allow for pets and have much less restrictive rules. While there is nothing wrong with this, the homeless should be treated in the same manner. Their needs and rights should not be relegated beneath any other group in society and if it the opposite way around (if refugees were treated as though they have less entitlement than homeless people) there would be a media outcry. For those who have a pet, this may be their most (or only) safe connection in which they experience warmth and love. For that reason it may be that they feel they've no other choice but to sleep rough, in order not to lose what little they have left.

For those who do wish to stay in emergency accommodation regardless, they first have to be assessed as homeless, a process which is not straightforward. To be very clear: a person can enter this country by way of deliberately destroying all identifying documents and can access accommodation immediately upon arrival, whereas an Irish person experiencing homelessness must "prove identity" in the form of photo ID, provide accommodation history, show proof of their last permanent address, and"show support and need for emergency accommodation, i.e. provide proof of homelessness such as an eviction notice or copy of a lease agreement and have full proof of income (source: spunout.ie). All things considered, who exactly is really "promoting and sustaining rough sleeping"? I recently spoke to a young woman experiencing homelessness who attested to the difficulty in accessing a hostel due to this bureaucratic red tape that seems to be largely reserved for Irish citizens. She explained through her tears how she feared spending another night on the streets, after being urinated on the previous night by a group of men who were 'new to the parish' and found much entertainment and laughter in treating this woman like a human toilet.

For those successfully access hostels, some allege incidences of Irish people being asked to leave in order to accommodate asylum seekers and refugees. If this is the case, it is quite unforgivable. This is not to say there are not some foreign born people experiencing discrimination or difficulties in accessing accommodation here (those that are not new arrivals perhaps), but it would appear the overwhelming majority of people sleeping rough or experiencing difficulties in accessing emergency accommodation are Irish. Nobody wants to be accused of xenophobia or racism and this will not happen it is an Irish native being rejected. This aside, there have also been complaints from homeless people that they and their possessions were put back on the street for refusing to accept Covid 19 injections. One man relayed his story to me last summer, asserting that the Gardaí were called to remove him when he questioned the unethical nature of this hostel rule. Lastly but not least; while there are emergency accommodation staff that care about their work and have a difficult job to do, there are many private hostels that have inadequate numbers of trained professional staff on hand.

I cannot offer hard evidence to substantiate some of the individual stories described, but for those seeking more than these claims, or more than a website link or speculation, I can offer my own experience and my family's experience of homeless services. I know the system very well, I know the hostel set ups and let downs. I know the lack of accountability from those tasked with assisting some of the most vulnerable in society. At 16 I was offered a place in a notorious Dublin hostel, known for its prevalence of female heroin users. As a child who had never touched drink or drugs, this was an 'option' I instinctively knew was a route to danger and disaster, and if I'd taken it I doubt I would be here now. More age appropriate care should have been offered, however recent reports of young teens under TUSLA's care being targeted by a pedophile ring demonstate that State care is not necessarily a safer or better option. Some years previous to my experience, my mother at 40 died in a hostel setting in shocking circumstances, a death which was certainly preventable and resulted from direct negligence. Many years later, my sibling too perished at 36 years young in one of these places. Both are long, anger inducing stories to recount. Something not necessary to do here in full. However, in the case of my sibling their body lay decomposing and undiscovered due to the incompetence of hostel staff. What followed was, I believe, a serious cover up effort involving staff, DCC, the Gardaí, coroner's office and pathologist's office. I believe anyone who hears this story would agree beyond doubt that there was collusion afoot. When I pressed harder for answers (as to why there was missing hostel CCTV footage for example) the previously 'nice' attitude of the investigating Garda vanished and was replaced with a more threatening tone. There was also a clear and entirely incorrect presumption by Gardaí that my sibling had somehow brought their demise upon themselves and therefore deserved to be treated without dignity or due process in death. Those involved saw them as an unfortunate problem to be swept under the rug. Their attitude was not unlike Mr. Keegan's. Indeed there is a pervasive whiff of this kind of attitude running through the establishment from the top down when it comes to Irish homelessness, and emergency accommodation remains a hard environment to naviagte for the transitory residents. Prior to my sibling's passing they had on more than one occasion been violently attacked in one of these places, resulting in fractures. They also had their belongings destroyed and stolen. In short hostels are not "an attractive option" as Mr. Keegan stated in 2019, insisting that they encourage people to coast along in homelessness. If they're such palatial abodes then let's see Mr. Keegan stay in one. I would like to see him survive a week unscathed. I wonder would he then have a newfound understanding as to why we often see sodden sleeping bags upon wet cardboard, enfolded in each one a real human being who deserves not to be treated like unwanted rubbish by jumped up, haughty, overpaid fools who bemoan the "almost hysterical" reactions to their outrageous claptrap.

As a seemingly unfeeling human being Mr. Keegan cannot assimilate other people being upset by his words and he is not only not sorry but doggedly proud that the "council is determined to ensure Dublin doesn't follow the example of other cities that have significant tented accommodation for homeless persons" given how this blights a city landscape. Oddly he doesn't seem to mind old office buildings being refurbished in a shoddy and unfit manner to house large numbers of migrants in places like Eastwall. He has remained silent on how turning areas of the city into ghettos may not be aesthetically pleasing or appropriate. Yet he is obsessed with a reduction of tents which is proving to be successful due to a "proactive policy of removal" with the council working with An Garda Síochana and homeless agencies (partially state funded NGO's) to "keep control on tent numbers". In other words, the council uses the manpower and resources of those meant to protect the public to instead remove destitute souls and their meagre belongings as though they are unwanted human trash. Videos circulating on social media throughout the year have captured harrowing scenes of vulnerable homeless people being treated as though they are criminals by Gardaí. Manhandled roughly and without dignity from tents, left to watch helplessly as their possessions are tossed into to a skip. DCC was responsible for critically injuring a homeless man in 2020 on Wilton Terrace, Grand Canal, when his tent was removed by an industrial vehicle. Despite a staff member from the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive being in attendance, no one thought to thoroughly check the tents for human occupancy. Mr. Keegan was at the helm of DCC at this time, yet it hasn't stopped him from employing questionable methods for achieving his aim of eradicating tents from view, nor has it imbued him with any sense of wishing to reassess his tendency toward verbal diarrhoea. Odds are that this is due to the fact that he has not been subjected to any real repercussions for his actions, and has instead generous received renumeration which will only serve to assure him he is doing a wonderful job.

Mr. Keegan has been the subject of much critsicism in the past, but thats about it. In 2021, there was public uproar after he told students to "build their own" accommodation when they had the audacity to point out that they could not afford to live in council built student residences. In a brass necked spin on the scandal he suggested that that there has been a "positive note" to what he had said as it publicised the student accommodation crisis in Dublin. In reponse to previous calls to resign a spokeswoman for Mr. Keegan said at the time that he could not respond to the call for his resignation because he was on "planned annual leave" that week. While he was eventually forced to apologise for his "sarcastic" comments towatd students, he undoubtedly did not mean a word of it, and has continued to have obnoxious outbursts. It is high time the public held this man to account. If you wish to try to do so you can contact Mr. Keegan regarding his latest comments on 01 2222222. His email is customerservices@dublincity.ie. Hopefully when he returns to his role in the New Year he will find himself inundated. Better still if anyone knows his address (we can rule out all working class areas as a starting point), it might be an idea to organise a symbolic tented sleep out on his street to send a more fitting visual message, one that cannot be disregarded as easily as he disregards the rights of others.

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