Saturday 10 December 2016

Hogan orders report after death of little boy on ghost estate

Eoghan MacConnell and Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Published 25/02/2012 | 05:00

ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has ordered a full report from a local authority on a ghost housing estate where a toddler died.

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Mr Hogan offered his condolences to the heartbroken family of two-year-old Liam Keogh after the little boy drowned in a pool of water on the unfinished Glenatore Estate.

Liam had wandered a couple of hundred metres from his home at Hazelwood in Athlone, Co Westmeath, in pursuit of his dog on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking in Belview, Co Kilkenny, yesterday, Mr Hogan admitted that the "legal process" with "receivers and liquidators" had slowed the cleaning up of such estates.

"I asked Westmeath County Council to give me a full report... to make sure that this could not happen again," he said, before adding that the incident was still "under investigation".

State funding was previously earmarked for urgent work such as installing street lighting or fencing off dangerous areas on the so-called ghost estates.

In total, the Department of the Environment approved funding of just over €2.5m for 21 local authorities to carry out safety measures at unfinished housing developments.

It emerged yesterday, however, that just €1.3m of that money has been paid over to date.

Problems

The payments are made under the Unfinished Housing Developments Public Safety Initiative.

To qualify for funding, the housing developments must be deemed 'Category 4' by the Department of the Environment.

This designation means the development has been effectively abandoned by the developer or builder and is posing serious problems for residents.

The estate where Liam died was designated 'Category 3'.

Westmeath County Council and Athlone Town Council yesterday issued a joint statement on the tragedy expressing deep sympathy with the family of Liam Keogh.

"In response to queries... this development is identified as Category 3," the council stated.

Athlone Town Council is processing a planning application to keep and complete the development.

The four largest amounts so far have been paid out to Longford County Council (€295,276.50), Cork County Council (€131,045.25), Wexford County Council (€180,999.78) and Cavan County Council (€106,201.98).

Yesterday, floral tributes adorned the wire mesh fence that Liam is believed to have passed through. "Sleep well Liam, in the arms of angels," one card reads.

A Rindoon Park resident, Noel Benson, said: "Everybody is dumbfounded, shocked. It's a terrible tragedy."

Funeral Mass will be held for Liam at St Mary's Church in Coosan at 10.30am on Monday.

Irish Independent

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