A students' union president has called for the resignation of Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan for a suggesting that students should get into the housing market themselves.
Mr Keegan made the remark in a letter to UCD Students' Union President Ruairí Power after he complained about the council allowing a student accommodation provider to convert some units into short-term lets.
Minister for Further Education Simon Harris tweeted his support for the students, saying "dismissive & sarcastic comments don't help".
Fully agree with @UCDSU. Student accommodation must be for students. Students raised this with @DarraghOBrienTD & myself & Darragh issued a circular to ensure this. Lots of work underway & needed to make improvements. Dismissive & sarcastic comments don't help https://t.co/Vn1JxYqyVt— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) October 11, 2021
The students' union president has complained about the permission for temporary change of use for some of the 571 student accommodation units at Ardcairn House on Arran Quay into tourist lettings.
Uninest were allowed the temporary change of use until next May after telling the city council that it did not anticipate its international student market recovering in the coming academic year.
Mr Power wrote to Mr Keegan complaining that this would increase the cost of student accommodation.
In the final paragraph of his reply, Mr Keegan stated: "If you genuinely believe that excess profits are being made in the PBSA market I am surprised the students' union has not entered the market itself and provided lower cost student accommodation for its members."
DCC CEO Owen Keegan's innovative solution to the housing crisis is…. Students’ Unions becoming property developers.— Ruairí Power (@RuairiPower_) October 11, 2021
This is in response to @ucdsu opposition to purpose-built student accommodation being converted into short-term tourist accommodation.🙃🙃🙃 pic.twitter.com/gDRJa2eVPv
Mr Power told the college newspaper the University Observer that he was calling for Mr Keegan's resignation.
He said: "We’ve no confidence that Owen Keegan is acting in the best interests of people living in Dublin and the surrounding areas, and as such we think he should resign."
The Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan said Mr Keegan should apologise for his comments.
Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, she said "it was snide and it was dismissive". She said "it belies his overall attitude to student accommodation within the city".
Senator Moynihan said if they cannot fill the student accommodation units, then they should bring down the rent, they should tie the rents to grants and also provide capital funding for third level institutions to build their own low-cost rental student accommodation.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh said Mr Keegan's comments "showed a level of contempt for the challenges facing students that is completely inappropriate for any individual, particularly one in such a senior position".
She said: "His office should be reaching out to student representatives on a regular basis, not dismissing their legitimate concerns with glib remarks.
"He should apologise immediately to the UCD Students’ Union, and indeed to all students in Ireland, for his remarks."