Dublin City Council advised not to add “fuel to the fire” over controversial remarks by Owen Keegan about tents and perceptions of safety in the city

Dublin City council chief executive Owen Keegan hit back at critics of radio comments he made about homeless people sleeping in tents and safety on the streets of Dublin.

Mr Keegan – who was at the centre of more controversy last week over an ill-judged letter about student housing – had told a radio station that the number of tents in the capital added to perceptions of “edginess” in the city.

The city council chief executive responded directly to a number of people about his tent remarks according to emails released by the council, in one saying he totally rejected the “characterisation of my comments and your assessment on my motives”.

Mr Keegan said he fundamentally disagreed with people who “promote” the use of tents for homeless people and “seek to sustain this inferior form of accommodation”.

He said tents were removed on average of three or four times a week by the council and this only happened where “the occupant has taken up an offer of secure accommodation”.

“Sleeping in tents is dangerous, unhygienic and a poses serious public health risk to both the occupants, and at times to the general public,” he added.

In another response, the city council chief executive said while there were valid reasons for somebody to live in a tent, it was never the best option.

“Notwithstanding the potential difficulties with hostel accommodation, I believe living in a supervised hostel is much safer than living in a tent in the city centre,” he wrote.

Internal emails also reveal that the city council was advised not to make official statements on Mr Keegan’s tent comments for fear of “adding fuel to the fire so to speak”.

The local authority had received several media queries about his remarks, but their external public relations advisers had recommended letting the matter fizzle out.

An email to Owen Keegan from one of the council’s communications staff said: “In other words if we try to justify our position, media might just use this to keep the argument going.”

You can read the full set of records below.