Monday 21 October 2019

Drive for social housing will create 'social ghettos', Archbishop warns

Diarmuid Martin backs junior minister in row with Murphy over site

Community: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has backed junior minister Catherine Byrne
Photo: Mark Condren
Community: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has backed junior minister Catherine Byrne Photo: Mark Condren
Catherine Byrne TD. Photo: Garrett White
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has warned the drive for social housing will create "social ghettos".

The archbishop has rowed-in on the political debate surrounding plans for social housing units on the old St Michael's Estate in Inchicore, Dublin, saying that Minister of State Catherine Byrne was right to take Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy on in relation to the development.

Speaking at a meeting of the My Drumcondra Business Group in the Skylon Hotel yesterday morning, Archbishop Martin said poor quality did not serve the people.

"The idea of housing and community to me is very important. Catherine Byrne, the junior minister for drugs, entered into a dispute with her colleague the Housing Minister because they want to plant a large housing development in the middle of Inchicore," the archbishop told the meeting of local business leaders.

"I think Catherine Byrne was right. You can't put in 600 houses into an area which is already deprived and has social problems.

"You're just going to create the slum that, you know, I grew up in Ballyfermot, I know what Keogh Square was.

"It began as Richmond Barracks, a British army barracks. Everyone knows if you have a garrison town or a garrison area it has social problems around it that don't go away for decades.

"It then became Keogh barracks and then closed. It became the place where anybody who was evicted from a corporation house was sent, an enormous slum, and it has never really recovered from that," he explained.

The Fine Gael spat about the plans for the south city site came to a head last month when Ms Byrne held off until the last minute on her decision on which way to vote on a Sinn Féin no-confidence motion in Mr Murphy.

Mr Murphy had claimed the development would be the State's first not-for-profit rental scheme, and that the plan had cross-party support.

But his Fine Gael colleague voiced her opinion that plans to build rental housing for low and middle-income workers, instead of affordable homes which could be bought, would destroy the local community.

"It's probably one of the worst plans I've seen put forward for this site," she said, adding that the cost-rental model would not create a sustainable community but would encourage transient renters instead.

As well as speaking about the Inchicore plan, the archbishop also spoke of plans to sell-off lands at Clonliffe College to the GAA for community development.

"So this is why I'm very anxious that with the Clonliffe development that we have the right mixture.

"Certainly we need social housing, but we don't need social ghettos. That for me is one of the big challenges," he said.

"Profit is not entirely evil, but when it becomes a dominant thing we saw what happened in our own society with the crisis.

"In the long term when it comes to a crisis it's the poor that pay the most, and they are the ones on the margins.

"We did a survey out in Neilstown and Rowlagh, in that part of the city, which is one of those examples where they simply built houses and no community services, no shops.

"The cheapest quality healthy food was in supermarkets which were quite a distance away and the elderly were left with expensive poorer quality food than others.

"If everything is dominated by the big hyper-markets in the long term, it won't bring about the results that people want," he told the meeting.

Irish Independent

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