It was obvious from
day one that Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. (BRL) would make Ballymun
much worse for the people of Ballymun than it was when they
first brought their Bulldozers in.
Dublin City Council
had failed miserably over the previous 30 years in their responsibilities
to the tenants and residents. It was the first time that a local
authority had undertaken a project of this magnitude and to
think that it was a local authority that had proved their ineptitude
over so many years in Ballymun.
I with a number of
other residents, organised a public meeting in May 2000 to alert
people to the fact that the density of housing had been radically
changed from what it stated on the Master plan.
The local forum were
sent in to disrupt the meeting and delivered a letter to all
in the area accusing our group of scare mongering. We were proved
right in our claims. We had checked their application for planning
permission in Wood Quay.
The Forums were set
up to prevent local tenants and residents from setting up their
own representative organizations. To build sustainable houses
for the tenants living in the flats, all the public land of
Ballymun should have been dedicated to it.
I wrote to Minister
Dempsey in the year 2000 not to increase the housing density
in Ballymun to prevent the building of a slum area greater than
the one we were trying to remove. He indicated that he had full
confidence in Ciaran Murray. What a blunder! Evidence for this
fact is coming quickly into the public arena and will continue
to gain pace. On the 16th December the Sunday Independent published
a report on the ongoing saga about the "Santry Cross"
are quickly beginning to experience problems frighteningly like
what happened in the old blocks, which they knocked down and
replaced with these. On the 6th January the Sunday Business
Post reported on the same story but they mention the fear that
is running through the whole of Ballymun Estate. They say "The
entire estate has become a development in rapid decline toward
slum status. There is no proper system of security for the tenants
to protect them from trespass and crime."
The high density
of houses,(if there was a fire there is no fire station in Ballymun
for a population of 30,000people) the absence of driveways,
parks particularly suited to hangouts for junkies, (instead
of open green space where the great majority of Ballymun young
people who are trying to live decently could play in safety).
The junkies are wrecking havoc all over Ballymun, trashing people's
homes when they are gone out, wrecking and robbing youth clubs
and youth centers and all with impunity, smashing, burning,
and robbing cars.
Why did the BRL decide
that they had nothing to learn from the 30 years experience
of Ballymun's volunteers and community activists? Perhaps they
were like some of the old gold prospectors of America; they
thought that they had discovered a gold mine in Ballymun and
wanted to keep it a secret; but unfortunately for them it was
like the pyrite DCC built the Reco on- fool's gold.
Dublin city is a
proud city. Ballymun people are a proud people. The hard working
people of Dublin with young families flocked out of the tenements
in the city in their thousands to live in the flats in Ballymun
in the 60's. The new tenants were kept well in the dark regarding
the serious drawbacks for families living in high flats. Some
of the architects actually tried to oppose these plans but Dublin
Corporation wouldn't entertain their Plans for conventional
3 and 4 bedroom houses instead. But doesn't history tend to
repeat itself? A number of Ballymun people made this very same
suggestion to the BRL when they saw their plans for tenement
type houses for the Regeneration. They were given short shrift.
But the Ballymunners
of the 60's didn't fail their families and their community.
They invested their energy, their time and their money in their
families and in providing services for the youth. This new millennium
generation who are the beneficiaries of the 60's generation
will not be found wanting either in the face of the latest Dublin
City Council challenge even though it is even greater than in
the 60's. Now there will be no Lift Shafts and Basements. There
will be a dearth of football fields and greens.
The Plough Youth
Club is one of the few survivors of the Regeneration. It met
the BRL on Thursday 13th April 2000 in Stormanstown House along
with other Shangan Groups and all were promised accommodation
in the Shangan Neighbourhood Centre or in the Plough Youth Club
case, adjoined to it. The Plough Youth Club wrote to BRL on
the 22nd August 2002. BRL assured the club it would be provided
with quality facilities. Instead they have been attempting to
strangle the club in a rented room in a prefab. The Plough Youth
Club is now continuing to give a valuable service to another
generation of young Ballymun people.
Arabian horses and a British Field Marshall rather than the
signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic is the
choice of BRL Ltd. as a focal point of their new main street.
And to think they would put it on the site of the former Thomas
McDonagh Tower. I am not surprised because BRL acts as an agent
of DCC who then known as Dublin Corporation were responsible
as landlords for allowing Ballymun to decline into a slum area.
Why DCC was allowed to do the Regeneration of Ballymun with
this record behind them deserves an Enquiry as much as any of
the issues we hear about daily in Dublin Castle.
But the day of reckoning
has come for them probably with the recent release of the Comptroller
& Auditor Generals Special Report on Ballymun Regeneration.
The Irish Independent published an article on the Special Report
Tuesday the 4th of March last and the editor felt compelled
to do an editorial report on it in addition to the article.
He entitled his report "A terrible waste". He says
the original blueprint envisaged the completion of the demolition
and rebuilding work by 2006. The estimated cost was €442m.
But now the projected completion date has been moved to 2012.
And the estimated final bill has more than doubled to €942.
He says that when people in positions of authority are confronted
on such issues they seldom lack excuses and bland comments and
he says that none of those given to the C &AG by BRL even
when added together can justify the enormous increase in the
cost of the project.
Reading the Special
Report itself gives rise to some disturbing facts such as 532
of the original flats are not going to be replaced; a key objective
of the BRL was social mix but most of the private houses are
physically separate from the social housing. And although the
Special Report doesn't seem to be aware of it the quality and
size of the new homes are far from what was promised. In conclusion
the selling of too large a proportion of the Ballymun land bank
to private investors has resulted in the failure of the regeneration
of Ballymun. Brendan Kenny on RTE's Morning Ireland said he
would raise money from the sale of land in Moyross, Southill,
St. Mary's Park and Ballinacurra Weston for their Regeneration
so Limerick beware.
BRL and it's Ballymun
Housing Task Force-now Ballymun Neighbourhood Council-will soon
be celebrating 10 years into their project. Of course the Comptroller
and Auditor General revealed to us last March that it should
have been finished 2 years ago and that the complete budget
(442 million) was spent with only the job half done. It is to
take another 4 years and cost an extra 500 million. But I don't
think it is only the taxpayer that is unhappy. The tenants expected
ordinary houses but got bed sit type houses lacking driveways
and not suitable for families. The expected new up-market shopping
centre never happened.
We lost our excellent
swimming pool, which was only built after sustained protests
in the 1970's. Our football fields were built on and the Plough
Youth Club has not been given any meaningful and realistic support
in getting a new premises anywhere near the needs of such an
effective and large and growing club. Our promised Information
Technology Park wasn't delivered. Our losses were gains for
private apartments and hotels which already don't seem to be
sustainable. These were all segregated from the public areas
by location and by not allowing Ballymun residents rent support
in them. Most people learn from previous mistakes but those
who don't, obviously don't want to.
BCON was established
7 years ago to represent and support the community and voluntary
sector. It represents 38 community and voluntary organizations.
Everett/Daly found that unlike Fatima and the Docklands the
voluntary and community groups in Ballymun have no formal mechanism
for contributing to meaningful decision making in the BRL structure.
They propose that a Forum composed of BRL, DCC, YDP, and BC0N
be set up. They recommend that BCON and the community and voluntary
groups it represents should accept that the other three groups
will act in good faith. BCON have reported back to us a declared
willingness on the part of these groups to accept this Forum.
But honestly I cannot see how it could work any better than
the neighbourhood Forums which gave no decision making power
to the community whatsoever. The Report rightly castigates the
decision of BRL for engaging in a one-to-one, confidential manner.
This practice has eroded trust both within the community and
voluntary sector and between the community and voluntary sector
and the local authority. However BRL's contribution to the Irish
Times article on 20-07-07; Ciaran Murray's contribution to the
Morning Ireland interviews on the E/D Report; BRL's contribution
to the article in the Northside People 26-09-07; all show clearly
that BRL is not listening.
They continue to
assert, despite all the increasing evidence to the contrary,
that they are going to meet everybody's needs. The E/D Report
is correct when it says that "it is essential that BRL
and Dublin City Council both commit themselves to working jointly
with the community and voluntary sector" in a partnership
arrangement in a spirit of mutual respect. To date despite all
their protestations to the contrary they are continuing to act
in a completely one-sided way. The Report was released in July
and now in October they have not diverted one inch from their
absolute control of all the decisions being made for the people
of Ballymun. Groups and even families and individuals in flats;
Groups in basements and lift shafts haven't been given any say
in their future and attempts are being made to shunt them around
from one place to another. This is in total disregard for the
right of the people of Ballymun to have their rights freedoms
and responsibilities protected by the State. And it is completely
contrary to the spirit requested in the Everett/Daly Report.
BRL were set up as
a limited company by DCC and were handed over the land bank
of Ballymun to do with as they pleased. The 3 top men had over
a hundred years behind them in the old Dublin Corporation. They
labeled Ballymun as a failed community. They claimed that community
and voluntary groups had done nothing in over 30 years. The
old activists were never going to change they said. There was
no way they were going to invest in them. Push them aside and
bring a new population into the area. They were going to change
the image of Ballymun. These people are an example of power
It led them to see
the people of Ballymun not as their benefactors but as their
debtors. Anything is good enough for them. They deserve nothing.
This attitude was but a continuation of their treatment of the
people of Ballymun for the previous 30 years. It was bad enough
to build high-rise flats but to neglect them was even worse.
The BRL promised to build houses for the people in the flats.
They said they would proceed in a methodical and orderly way.
They were to be moved one block at a time all the tenants together
and when each block was demolished new houses were to be built
in its footprints. The opposite was done. The tenants were housed
at random causing chaos for the remnant left in each block.
The footprints of Pearse, McDonagh, McDermott, and Ceannt have
been sold to build profitable apartments, and hotels.
The tenants ended
up being housed on the footprints of their own playing fields
and green areas. The new Ballymun has all the luxuries and creature
comforts while the old Ballymun is confined to an over dense,
overcrowded area which is already showing signs of decadence.
Areas like this bring out the worst in some young people and
the whole area is becoming a seedbed for antisocial behavior.
There was to be more space in the houses than in the flats.
The new houses were
to be better than the old. There were to be all sorts of social,
recreational and youth work premises and facilities. The people
of Ballymun even at this late stage should be writing to their
Counselors and TD's demanding an enquiry into why the BRL have
failed so abysmally.
The Plough Youth Club
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