County Mayor says council meetings could be held at arena

By Maurice Garvey

HOSTING council meetings at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght is courted as a possibility by Mayor of South Dublin County Council Vicki 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.

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The basketball arena could be used for council meetings

Mayor Casserly requested a resolution at the May 11 council meeting, to look for alternative venues for meetings.

The council cannot host all 40 councillors in the chamber at County Hall due to social distancing.

The council’s preference is to open up a training room and conference room adjacent to the chamber – seating 20 in the chamber and 20 in the training/conference with projectors and mics set up.

However, Mayor Casserly is checking with LAMA (Local Authorities Members Association) to see if this is legal.

“Under Statutory orders, you have to be in the same room to vote. Presently, we are trying to get people in and out to vote and it is very challenging. It wouldn’t offer a fair debate,” said the FG Cllr.

“One of my roles as Mayor is trying to facilitate best practice for all members in a safe way. At the last meeting we had 21 members and we tried to ensure representation from all parties.”

According to a report by the council on May 11, renting the Basketball Arena could cost in excess of €10,000, including setting up PA systems, tables, chairs and security.

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Mayor Vicki Casserly

Mayor Casserly acknowledges the Arena is “not sustainable” long term but that it, and other potential venues, offer an option to “meet our mandate obligations”.

“The other thing is we would be generating income back into the community. It is not a big community gain for anyone,” she said.

This was echoed by Cllr Eoin Ó Broin (Ind), who sees the cost providing “economic benefit and an investment” for a local venue in the county.

Cllr Emma Murphy (FF) also voted for the Mayor’s proposal to look at other venues, with Tallaght Leisure Centre and Adamstown Community Centre also being considered.

“We need to hold meetings with 40 councillors in one room, we have a lot of business to do,” said Cllr Murphy.

“I don’t see how County Hall is viable. They say there is two screens but it is not fair on the people outside the room and makes it difficult to speak. We need an equitable solution.”

Ultimately, councillors will vote on a venue and it is hoped that a decision will be made ahead of the AGM on June 25.

In a plea for Government support this week, Mr Byrne said 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.”

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