EXCHANGES BETWEEN residents of Blackrock, Co Dublin, and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county manager Owen Keegan became heated yesterday, when the residents discovered they were being photographed and their meeting was being recorded.
Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, which acknowledged a member of its staff took photographs, later said the action had been inappropriate and the images would be deleted.
Residents from the Brookfield Park and Rowanbyrn estates have been halting construction on a local road on an intermittent basis over recent days in a bid to have two bus lanes dropped from the scheme.
The locals claimed the bus lanes were not on any bus route and would result in a four-lane “highway” outside their homes.
As they made their points to Mr Keegan at an on-site meeting yesterday morning, Cllr Richard Boyd Barrett asked a man standing behind and to one side of Mr Keegan: “Do you mind me asking why you are filming? ”
The man, wearing a yellow jacket and hard hat, said he was simply “taking photos”.
A number of residents pointed out that other men in yellow jackets and hard hats were holding mobile phones with the lenses pointing towards protesters. At this point Mr Keegan asked the man with the camera what he was doing and was told: “I am photographing the site”.
However, some residents said the incident was designed to intimidate them and they claimed to have been warned by staff of construction company Siac that they would face a court injunction and possible jail if they did not give up their protest. There was heckling of Mr Keegan.
In his discussion with the residents, Mr Keegan said he was prepared to discuss a number of design issues including the completion or extension of garden walls, treatment of hedges and paths as well as planting and other measures, but he said he was powerless to do anything about the bus lanes, which had been a condition of the Bord Pleanála planning decision.
Following the board’s decision, he had taken the project to the elected councillors asking them to vote on it and they had approved the project. “That’s democracy,” he said.
Mr Keegan also said he believed putting in bus lanes where possible was good planning for the future. He noted comments from residents that there were just 200 metres of bus lanes before the roadway narrowed to about seven metres wide and the bus lanes were dropped. He rejected their assertions that buses would “never” use the lanes because Dublin Bus did not run buses on the road and would never do so. “We don’t know that,” he said.
In a statement later, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown said it was “common practice” to photograph development of a construction project. “However, the council accepts that in this particular instance, it was not appropriate,” the statement continued.