4th February 2008, I was casually invited to accompany the Southside
Regeneration Agency (and pals) on a trip to Dublin to visit
newly regenerated areas. The invitation was issued by Mr. Brendan
Hayden (Director SRA) in a 'by the way' manner following a meeting
of the now defunct Concerned Residents Alliance with Mr. Brendan
Kenny (CEO) and Mr. Hayden.
of the Weston Gardens Residents' Association I informed Mr.
Hayden that I would have to consult with our residents before
I could accept. We held a meeting and after some debate it was
agreed that I should go. I later found out that I was invited
in the hopes that the WGRA could be dissolved into a 'committee'
for the neighbouring estate, thus ending our independent negotiations
with the agency. This didn't happen.
itenary involved a visit to Fatima Mansions. A visit to St Ultans
integrated Educational Project, which incorporates both a Primary
School and Care Unit in Cherry Orchard. A Visit to Sophia Housing
(much needed in Limerick) and a visit to Finglas. I was most
impressed by the Community involvement in the regeneration of
Fatima Mansions and with Dublin City Council's 'buy back scheme'
I found a Community that was, for the most part, happy with
the regeneration of their area. They had good reason to be,
as they were the driving force behind it. Their regeneration
board consists mostly of residents. Limericks regeneration board
and modus operandi has more in common with Ballymun Regeneration
Limited. We didn't visit Ballymun; it's considered a failure!
given a lot of useful literature such as The Real Guide to
Regeneration for Communities and Things Can Be Different!
The Transformation of Fatima Mansions.
following are extracts from The Real Guide to Regeneration
for Communities. The comments [in italics] are my own.
Make a democratic
Depopulation - Demolition - Redevelopment
Keep the estate together - retain the existing space - look
for refurbishment and precinct improvement.
chose the latter and after we were excluded from participating
at committee level. We came up with a strategy that would eventually
force the Regeneration Agency to either negotiate with us directly
or accept that we were not part of their remit. In August 2008,
there was an attempt by the Agency to hand us back to the LCC,
but we said we'd instigate a judicial review, so now we are
the only estate in the Master Plan that isn't being demolished.]
Setting a community
- Develop clear
arguments, agree your positions clearly
- Put together
a Community Agenda for Regeneration. This needs to be a
positive vision for change and improvement -new life without
demolition. It could be based on:
the value of what you have and improving on it.
the estate and community together.
the existing space.
the precinct, refurbishing your homes.
in the existing estate and the living community
(don't let them tell you this is not possible -government
funding is available for this under the Remedial Works
Scheme and the Area Regeneration Programme).
[We produced our
own vision document 'Renewal, Integration, Regeneration', committing
to paper everything that Mr. Kenny said was possible for our
area. I dropped it into his southside office on the 6th December
as we were meeting with him that night. At the time we thought
producing our own vision document was an original idea]
- Make sure community
representatives have a clear mandate.
- Put pressure
on the statutory bodies to do their jobs properly
- Look for publicity,
campaign for your rights.
- Keep a clear
head, stay united and organised, don't get divided or split.
- Lobby politicians.
The following extract
is from Things Can Be Different! The Transformation of Fatima
Mansions. The comments [in italics] are my own.
Don't be suckered
To make changes, we have to work with those who can decide
that changes will happen. But working with such people is
rarely a true partnership, at least not initially. The agendas
are different. If their agendas for change coincided with
yours, the changes would have happened without your having
Watch out for
Through our experience of talking with those in community
development work, we have noticed some patterns of behaviour
that appear common in powerful bodies with whom a community
needs to engage in order to achieve change. When engaging
with powerful bodies, even those who make reassuring noises
about wanting the best for you, watch out for the following
communication through informal arrangements.
The powerful body suggests friendly chats, dropping in for
tea, or that my door is always open, as a way of dealing
with issues, rather than formalised structures. [Sound
Where formal structures do exist, only minimal representation
from the weaker community is allowed. [When we made it
clear that we didn't want our homes demolished we were excluded
from participating in a 'residents committee'. How many
residents sit on the board or regional committees? ]
The powerful body effects disruption by cancelling meetings
at short notice, leaving meetings early, not completing
agreed tasks, misplacing files, not giving information or
by sending new representatives to meetings without explanation.
[We had severeral meetings cancelled at short notice]
The powerful body pushes out principles to justify controlling
a process. For example, insisting that only a member of
a marginalised group can attend a meeting rather than any
professionals who work with them can be presented as genuine
representation. However, in effect, this can mean that the
community is more poorly represented than if a professional
is present also. It's akin to expecting a person to attend
a trial without legal representation and be questioned by
The powerful body pressurises for a quick decision on the
basis, for example, that funding will be withdrawn if the
decision is not made quickly. [I've heard this line from
some of our councillors and TD's.]
with a smile.
The representatives of the powerful body fully and enthusiastically
agree with the community but say that they cannot take the
decision, as their superior is not present. [Agreeing
with everything you say but doing nothing about it seems
to be par for the course]
- Playing poker.
The powerful body sets out an extremely hard line position
initially and gradually soften it under pressure. [We
had this at the start: "what are you going to do when
all the houses around you are knocked?"]
I arranged a meeting
with the Fatima Groups United and returned to Fatima Mansions
on Saturday 16th February 2008. I was looking for help in devising
a better strategy as Limerick is devoid of such expertise.
It is obvious to
me now that Mr. Kenny has learned from his experience in Fatima
Mansions and elsewhere. The Limerick Regeneration Agencies have
subverted the concept of a real Community Agenda by producing
copy & paste 'vision' documents without any real consultation
or debate. A 'top down' approach with a 'bottom up' veneer;
a developers dream with jobs 'for the boys'.
- Dublin City Council's 'Buy Back Scheme'
In Finglas, Dublin
City Council is buying back houses from elderly people who find
it difficult to manage a two-storey three-bedroomed house.
The council will
buy at the 'market rate' -€330,000 (low by Dublin standards).
The seller will keep two thirds of the money and will be moved
into a spacious bungalow in a gated and secure cul-de sac.
The bungalows are rented for a minimum of €27 and a maximum
of €39 per week, depending on the pension. The two-thirds
lump sum gives financial security and does not affect the rent.
In Limerick we are treating our elderly less equitably.
Limerick City Council
is facilitating the Regeneration Agencies by overseeing the
depopulation of areas targeted for regeneration. While these
areas are officially under the remit if the Regeneration Agencies,
the agencies refuse to involve themselves in the process.
People have being
looking to get out of our troubled estates for years. Since
the publication of the Fitzgerald Report, Limerick City Council
has been acquiring peoples homes for as little as €20,000
- €40,000 in exchange for rented accommodation elsewhere
in the city.
The Council claim
that they are paying 'the market rate'. In truth, there is no
market. Any auctioneer will tell you that houses in such areas
are unsellable! Furthermore, the 'market rate' will not give
financial security. Acceptance of the councils offer is conveniently
interpreted as 'wanting to leave' and as a result people forfeit
their right to a new house in the newly regenerated area.
This policy can only
be viewed as exploiting the criminal and anti-social behaviour
that exists to pave the way for developers by clearing the land
of as many people as possible. Most of these people are law-abiding
and elderly, and had finished paying their mortgages.
that don't have criminal records are also being displaced, which
makes a mockery of any stated intentions for Social Regeneration.
People who have taken
the council offer should be contacted by the Regeneration Agencies
and offered a house in the newly regenerated area. If they used
to be homeowners then they should return as homeowners. If they
do not wish to return, then a house in the regenerated area
should be sold on their behalf so that they can purchase the
house they now have to rent.
Fatima Mansions experienced
a loss of population during regeneration, but the FGU are currently
working on a repatriation scheme. Unfortunately, there are too
many lackies (for want of a better word) in this city that are
willing to go along with this 'new show in town' so long as
it keeps them in a job, or in some cases, several well paid
Weston Gardens Residents' Association
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