Tale of two cities as residents to picket new court
IT has been described as a tale of two cities -- a gleaming, new Criminal Courts of Justice complex and run-down flats just three minutes walk away.
The Criminal Courts of Justice complex on the outskirts of the Phoenix Park in Dublin is 11 storeys high and has been built at a cost of €300m.
But the opening ceremony, which is due to be performed by President Mary McAleese today, will be picketed by local residents angry over the stalled regeneration project in the nearby O'Devaney Gardens flats complex.
They claim the Government is willing to spend millions on a courts complex, but will not spend anything on decent housing for ordinary people.
Local resident Joe Kelly said it was ironic that the courts complex had been successfully built using a public private partnership (PPP) agreement, while the PPP to regenerate O'Devaney Gardens had collapsed.
"One failed to provide houses for the working class, but the other is going to provide temporary accommodation for a lot of working-class people, namely in Mountjoy," he said.
Builder Bernard McNamara had agreed to regenerate the flats complex through his Michael McNamara company, but announced in 2008 that he was pulling out of the PPP agreement due to the economic downturn.
Dublin City Council had announced plans to restart the first phase of the regeneration project by building 193 out of a total of 823 units. But there has been no sign of the €32m in funding needed to do it.
Mr Kelly, who lives in the adjoining Montpelier estate, said the courts complex towered over the O'Devaney estate with its roof gardens for judges.
"So when they are relaxing in their gardens, they can look out at the dereliction in O'Devaney," he said.
The O'Devaney Gardens flats complex was built in the 1950s. But it suffered from anti-social behaviour problems after its original tenants moved to new estates and was identified as being in need of regeneration.
In 2007, then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern attended a launch at the flats complex to celebrate the signing of the regeneration project. Although some flats were demolished as part of the failed PPP project and others were boarded up, there are about 120 families still living in O'Devaney Gardens.
People Before Profit Alliance north inner-city representative Colm Smith said there was a need for the stalled regeneration project to restart. He said it was symbolic that the "hugely expensive" criminal courts building was situated cheek by jowl with people who have sub-standard housing.