Sunday 22 April 2018

FG colleagues fail to back candidate who opposes Traveller site

Fine Gael election candidate Josepha Madigan
Fine Gael election candidate Josepha Madigan
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A FINE Gael election candidate has found herself increasingly isolated over comments that building Traveller accommodation in an affluent area would be “a waste of valuable resources”.

Party sources have revealed Dún Laoghaire Rathdown councillor Josepha Madigan was urged by colleagues not to issue a controversial leaflet containing an article opposing the plans ahead of last year’s local elections.

However, the lawyer proceeded with the newsletter in May 2014, in which she voiced opposition to proposals to develop five housing units for members of the Travelling community at council-owned land on Mount Anville Road in south Dublin.

Ms Madigan stated it would be “a dreadful waste of taxpayers’ money”, that the land was worth up to €5m and that potential accommodation in the constituency was held by Nama.

The controversy has not stopped her from being selected as Alan Shatter’s running mate for Fine Gael in the forthcoming General Election.

READ MORE: Proposed Traveller housing site faces 93 objections, including the effect on views and property prices

However, local party sources said the remarks, which are receiving attention again in the wake of the recent fire tragedy in Carrickmines, were ill-judged.

One prominent local activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ms Madigan had “invited trouble for herself getting involved in such a sensitive issue”.

READ MORE: FG election candidate clashes with party over 'waste of money' halting site

Fine Gael confirmed over the weekend that Ms Madigan’s position did not reflect the party’s policy on Traveller accommodation. A number of Cllr Madigan’s colleagues on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council have also been slow to defend her stance.

When asked if she would be supportive of Cllr Madigan’s views, Killiney-Shankill councillor Maria Bailey said: “That is an issue for that area.”

She added: “Josepha is getting a very rough time on this at the minute. But she is not

anti-Traveller. She is not like that.

“That site is very valuable and I can see both sides of the argument.”

Dún Laoghaire-based Fine Gael councillor John Bailey also declined to comment on the merits of Cllr Madigan’s argument, saying he was unfamiliar with the Mount Anville Road site.

However, he said certain areas in the local authority had been less accepting of Traveller accommodation than others.

“Mount Merrion and Stillorgan mounted a campaign not to have halting sites. That’s discrimination,” he said.

Two of Cllr Madigan’s party colleagues did publicly defend her stance, however, saying there was merit to the economic argument she was making.

Glencullen-Sandyford councillor Neale Richmond said he believed substantial funds could be raised from the sale of the site and ploughed into Traveller and social housing projects.

“I would have concerns that due to the value of the site it would be better if it was sold into private ownership. Then we could get other Traveller accommodation and social housing sites off of the plans and into action,” he said.

Blackrock councillor Barry Ward said there were “probably more effective uses” to which the site could be put.

“It is certainly not for me to speak for her, but I think she has been very unfairly treated.

“What she said has been misrepresented. She has suffered quite a lot for what was a legitimately expressed concern.”

The site at the centre of the row, located beside a council depot, has been considered for Traveller accommodation since 1985 and has featured in recent Traveller Accommodation Programmes developed by the council. However, the site has never been progressed.

A spokesman for the council said the site remained in the current Traveller Accommodation Programme, which runs until 2018 and that the site was “at the pre-design stage”.

Cllr Madigan said over the weekend that some of her words had been taken out of context and insisted her remarks were from an economic perspective and solely in relation to the Mount Anville site.

As well as being a practicing family law solicitor, the Trinity College graduate self-published a novel, Negligent Behaviour, in 2011.

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