Higgins: use ghost estates as emigrants' holiday homes
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has suggested that ghost estates could be used for emigrants who have fallen on hard times abroad to stay in for holidays at home.
During a visit to GAA grounds in west London yesterday, Mr Higgins said the idea of using the empty homes around the country was "well worthy of consideration".
The suggestion initially arose during an interview with the Irish Post last week where he said that using the estates for emigrants under the poverty line would allow them to come home for periods of time.
Yesterday, he said many Irish who were in receipt of social services in the UK wanted to return to Ireland for a period to make a connection with the country.
"If you do have accommodations and, faced with all of the options as to their use, before one would consider demolition, certainly I would have thought that [using them for emigrants] in some cases -- realising as well that some people will want to move back where they have a network that is supportive and social services that are adequate," he said.
"Others may want to do so for just a shorter period of time and it is something which is well worthy of consideration.
"It is something which could be advanced with whatever consultation, with whatever is the appropriate department, probably housing and the county associations in Britain.
"When we really have a problem at home, such as housing estates that are near finished, unfinished or whatever, we should really put any resource we have into any possible solution, which may in fact make the lives of those who are Irish people better."
The visit to the Ruislip GAA grounds in west London -- the first time that an Irish President has visited an English GAA grounds -- was the beginning of Mr Higgins's second trip to London since he was inaugurated last year.
Accompanied by his wife Sabina and staff from Aras an Uachtarain and the Irish Embassy in London, he met players and representatives of the association and commended how the games are being played across different communities in the UK.
Brendie Brien, the chairman of the GAA provincial council of Britain, said there was a challenge for teams in England to "blend" in new players who are moving from Ireland and those who had come through the club system there.
After the visit, the President went to the Hampstead Theatre in Swiss Cottage to attend the showing of three plays on Irish emigration by Tom Murphy, put on by the Druid Theatre Company.