Monday 26 February 2018

Despair and dole queues amid the unfinished housing estates

THERE are rural villages which were transformed by the building boom -- and now are paying the price for its collapse.

One such village is Mullagh, which became a desirable location for Polish lorry drivers, East European builders and Dubliners looking for a cheaper home within commuting distance of the capital,

Townhouses, apartments and sprawling housing estates sprang up. The number of children in the local primary school increased from 80 to 300 in the space of 10 years.

But now there are ghost estates with no street lights, no sewerage connections and open manhole covers.

Some of the Dubs want to go home, having found the arduous commute to work in Dublin too much and the experience of living in a small town in Co Cavan too hard to get to grips with. But they can't leave because property prices have plunged and they are trapped in negative equity. Four-bedroom houses once priced at €240,000 are now on sale for €80,000.

Fine Gael general candidate Joe O'Reilly recently said after canvassing in a couple of estates in Mullagh that he went home "positively depressed".

The anger towards Fianna Fail is palpable, with many of the recent arrivals such as Briege Osborne saying there was no chance of her voting for the party again.

"We've given them a go and look at the s**thole they have landed us in," she told the Irish Independent.

It is not just the recent arrivals to Mullagh who have been affected by the downturn.

Local builders who once cashed weekly cheques of €1,200 in the pubs are now lucky to be getting €200.

They are not stopping to get meat for a barbeque from local butcher Michael Kerrigan any more. He is closing in two weeks time and going back to Navan.

"It's just probably the lack of optimism. Maybe we need someone to tell us the positive things and that there is light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

There are queues out the door in the small local post office for unemployment benefit. Postmistress Kay Monaghan said it had never been like this during the boom.

"They are waiting for you at 9am. They are desperate."

The village suffered another blow at the weekend when thieves stripped copper piping from 12 new retirement homes near St Killian's church -- they had been almost ready after receiving a €1.5m state grant.

One man said that he had lost his job in a glass factory after working for all his life.

"Nobody is going to give me a job and I can see no party that can bring Ireland out of this mess," he said.

The man, who has four children under 12, believes he will not be able to pay his mortgage on his recently built house in Sliabh Rosann, one of Mullagh's many unfinished housing estates.

There is anger locally about such "eyesores" with the planners and politicians on Cavan County Council attracting particular ire.

Dubliner Paul Mulholland has suffered pay cuts and his wife Nicola has lost her job. An ambulance paramedic, he said his family had not had a holiday in two years.

The couple have a 17-month old son and are expecting another baby in four weeks

Mr Mulholland said there was no way he would vote for Fianna Fail again.

Irish Independent

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