Councillor Melisa Halpin, People Before Profit, has slammed Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Labour and the Greens in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for voting to hand over the Ferry Terminal Building to a private-for-profit company for the next 15 years.
The Ferry Terminal has been sitting empty since the ferry service ended nearly a decade ago.
The Council took over control of the harbour from the old Harbour Company in 2018 and looked for expressions of interest for a company to run the Ferry Terminal in line with planning permission that had been granted to a company before the handover to the harbour. The original company had decided not to pursue the plan.
At the time Councillor Melisa Halpin and Richard Boyd Barrett TD had criticised the Council for not launching a proper, more open “Expressions of Interest”, which would have looked for the best possible plan for this central piece of public infrastructure in the historic harbour.
A proposal was brought by the executive to tonight’s council meeting for councillors to “dispose” of the Ferry Terminal Building to a private-for-profit company for 15 years. This proposal has been the subject of no public consultation and there may be questions about the public procurement process.
Cllr Melisa Halpin said:
“The Ferry Terminal is a vast space in the centre of our historic harbour and tonight the majority of councillors voted to hand this piece of land and building over to a private-for-profit company to run an innovation hub.
“It is a disgrace that the terminal has lain idle for so long and I have nothing against an innovation hub, but I strongly object to a vital piece of public space being given to a private company to profit from. There are many other innovation hubs across the city and country but they are “not for profit” and they are focused on supporting start-ups, particularly in areas of disadvantage.
“The biggest problem with this project, though, is that it has not been the subject of any public consultation, the original expression of interest run by the council was entirely framed by the planning permission that had been received when the old Harbour Company was in charge.
“I proposed a motion tonight to defer this vote while we had a proper public consultation process and scrutinised the lease that we only received 4 hrs before the meeting started.
“My motion was defeated with all the establishment parties – Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/The Greens and Labour voting against.”
Deputy Boyd Barrett added: “Cllr Melisa Halpin and I campaigned for years to get the Harbour back under public control so that it could be developed in the interests of the people and in line with our county development plan. Instead, it seems with this decision, we are still dancing to the tune of the old Harbour Company.
“It is hard to believe that a site of such importance in our harbour could be handed over like this to a private company providing it with the ability to make huge profits while it only gives a small rent to the Council. I will be asking questions of the relevant ministers to make sure that the proper public procurement procedures have been adhered to and that the councillors received all the relevant information in advance of the vote.”