They voted 21 to nine in favour of changing the zoning of an almost seven-acre parcel of land next to the stadium from public open space to sports ground.
It clears the way for the GAA to lodge a planning application to expand the stadium, increasing capacity from 43,000 to 50,000, and to develop a ‘centre of excellence’ next door to include an all-weather pitch and a 1,000-seat stand.
It will be built in the middle of the proposed Marina Park, which will be amongst the largest public parks in the country, second only in size to Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
But residents, who packed City Hall’s public galleries, have vowed to fight the project through the planning process. “A particular sporting code trumps citizens’ rights,” said a spokesperson for the Save Marina Park campaign afterwards.
Councillors debated the issue for almost two hours.
Cllr Jim Corr (FG) said the rezoning was an example of bad planning and he called for a deferral. “It would have been far better if a planning application had been lodged, and detailed information was available to council, who could then engage in a debate on a material contravention.”
He was backed by Cllrs Denis O’Flynn and Catherine Clancy (Lab).
Ms Clancy said councillors were being asked to vote with their “eyes wide shut”.
Cllr Tim Brosnan (FF) said there have been eight variations to the city’s development plan since its adoption three years ago, some of which have led to a perception of “cosy planning”.
But several councillors backed the rezoning and said the GAA’s plans would benefit the entire city.
Cllr Michael Ahern (Lab) said the city could have both the centre of excellence and Marina Park.
Cllr Seán Martin (FF) said a “real forum with real clout” should be set up to address residents’ concerns.
Before the vote was called, city manager Tim Lucey slated Mr Brosnan’s “cosy planning” comments, and said it casts a slur on the city’s planning department.
He said the development plan specifically mentions working with the GAA to facilitate the development of the centre of excellence, and that the council agreed in principal last October to dispose of the land, subject to certain conditions.
Several councillors declared their membership of, connections with, or contributions to a range of GAA clubs, before casting their votes last night.
The GAA has said the planning application could be lodged within 12 weeks.