Monday 26 August 2019

Madigan-row Traveller site still empty

Council eyes €15m deal with developer after plot left derelict for five years

The vacant plot on Mount Anville Road which has been earmarked for Traveller accommodation since 1985. Picture: Steve Humphreys
The vacant plot on Mount Anville Road which has been earmarked for Traveller accommodation since 1985. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A local authority site earmarked for Traveller accommodation has been left vacant for years after Culture Minister Josepha Madigan campaigned against the development.

Ms Madigan previously described the proposed development in her South County Dublin constituency as a "dreadful waste of taxpayers' money" but since then the site been left derelict.

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The land continues to lie unused to this day despite the Government struggling to resolve one of the worst housing crises in the State's history.

Ms Madigan, who played a pivotal role in campaigning against the Traveller accommodation development, was last week criticised for hailing the news that a methadone clinic would not be based in her constituency. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, which owns the site, recently decided that the land bank would no longer be included in its Traveller accommodation programme.

The local authority now plans to sell the site zoned for residential development to a developer. However, such a sale would have to be approved by councillors. The site has an estimated value of around €15m.

Yesterday, Ms Madigan's spokesperson said the minister supported the council's "plans to develop a mix of housing on the site at the earliest opportunity which will support the Government's progress in tackling the housing crisis while also ensuring the efficient use of public resources".

Two hours later, the spokesperson sent an "additional line" from Ms Madigan which said: "The minister continues to regularly work with and support Traveller groups in Dublin Rathdown, in particular, the Southside Travellers Action Group."

The spokesperson did not respond to a request for examples of the minister working with Travellers.

The site on the Mount Anville Road has been earmarked for Traveller accommodation since 1985 but has faced fierce local opposition.

In 2014, Ms Madigan sent a letter to constituents in which she said the proposal for Traveller accommodation on Mount Anville Road was "very concerning" for residents in her constituency.

She said the site could be worth up to €5m and developing it into Traveller accommodation would be a "dreadful waste of taxpayers' money".

She doubled down on the comments in a subsequent interview with the Sunday Independent.

"I live in Mount Merrion, right? And putting a halting site here, quite frankly, would be ridiculous from a financial perspective," she said.

"If you are talking about me living next door to a halting site - where I live, the money that it would cost to buy the site in Mount Merrion, you could buy a site somewhere else for a third of the price and house more families. It doesn't make any logical sense from a taxpayer's perspective."

Last week, the minister was criticised for sending a letter to her constituents welcoming news that a methadone clinic wouldn't be sited in her constituency.

She said she was "pleased to reassure" residents that following representations from her office to the Department of Health she had been informed that a new clinic would not be developed in Ballinteer Health Centre in south Dublin.

"I know many people were concerned about this prospect following the closure of the methadone clinic in Baggot Street," she said. "This health centre is used by many local residents and would not be suitable as a methadone clinic."

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said that the letter was "quite disgusting" and "demonstrates typical Fine Gael snobbery".

Transport minister Shane Ross was also criticised for highlighting that there would be no methadone clinic in the constituency.

Ms Madigan's Fine Gael colleagues rallied around her when details of her letter about the clinic emerged. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted Ms Madigan did not lobby to ensure the methadone clinic was not in her constituency.

Health minister Simon Harris said the location of methadone services is decided by the HSE and not the Department of Health or ministers.

Ms Madigan said she had not given the letter prior approval before it was sent by her office to constituents.

Sunday Independent

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