National Basketball Arena to host council meeting

By Maurice Garvey

THE National Basketball Arena in Tallaght will host a full council meeting today (Monday, June 8) – marking a new direction and venue for local politics.

South Dublin County Council looked at a number of venues in the county to “accommodate physical distancing guidelines.”

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The National Basketetball Arena

The council’s preference was is to open up a training and conference room adjacent to the chamber in County Hall in Tallaght – splitting 40 councillors into two areas during meetings, connected via mics and projectors.

However, a number of councillors, including Mayor Vicki Casserly, felt this would violate legal obligations and expressed a preference for a meeting under one roof.

“In terms of social distancing and accommodating all 40 councillors, this was the most viable option, it was available at short notice and it keeps it in the county,” said Mayor Casserly.

The Arena has been closed since March 13 due to Covid-19 with “all income immediately ceased and bookings over the coming months cancelled”, according to Bernard O’Byrne, CEO, Basketball Ireland.

Speaking to The Echo while venues were being considered by the council, Mr O’Byrne, CEO, Basketball Ireland, said the Arena has experience of hosting different sporting events and would be “delighted” to host council meetings.

According to a report by the council on May 11, renting the Basketball Arena could cost in excess of €10,000 per meeting – the bulk of this for setting up PA systems, and the rest for tables, chairs and security.

Mayor Casserly acknowledged Covid-19 has forced society to adapt.

“It’s where it is at the moment. Everything has changed but at least this cost is going back into the local economy and ensures full representation. Councillors want to play a full role in democracy.”

According to Mr O’Byrne, Covid-19 represents a “huge hit” on the income of Basketball Ireland as gate receipts and sponsorship have evaporated.

“To exacerbate things further, our insurance company insists that the ‘business disruption’ clause in our policy does not cover this loss of earnings.

At club level, we have surveyed our 48 National League clubs and almost universally, the feedback is that clubs will struggle to re-start financially.”

The council will likely host the annual AGM in the Arena on June 26, where a new Mayor will be elected.

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