This time, we must make sure to get housing right
THE Government should pay heed to what An Bord Pleanala is saying. A sophisticated approach to delivering housing is what is needed at this difficult time, not a knee-jerk reaction which would allow construction of thousands of new three- and four-bed semi-detached homes across the country. No one doubts the desire of many to get on the property ladder and their frustration at not being able to buy a home to call their own.
But we know what happens when planning is given lip service instead of being at the heart of building communities – hundreds of ghost estates in unsuitable locations, homes built on flood plains, developments located in areas with little or no public services, including the transport links, shops and restaurants that are so vital to everyday life.
The Housing Agency says it's not simply a case of there being no family-sized homes available. The lack of properties coming on to the market is the difficulty. It suggests, not unreasonably, that many empty-nesters would be quite happy to trade down if they could move to a smaller home in the same location. This is one area that could be targeted for investment, with high-quality apartments built with roof terraces, parks and balconies to provide much-needed open space. Failure to create a real and sustainable solution will only shore up problems down the line. Forcing people into their cars to travel to work and school is not sustainable. Extending the spread of our larger cities means more time commuting and less with family and friends.
Dr Kelly says that town and village centres, many located in our larger cities, should be developed as attractive places to live. She rightly points out that people cannot be forced to live in particular areas, but if they're listened to and their concerns are taken on board, it could result in vibrant, thriving communities. George Santayana noted that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The lessons of the Celtic Tiger should not be forgotten so quickly.
SILENCE OF MR PURCELL ONLY ADDS TO UNCERTAINTY
DOES Brian Purcell hold the safest job in Irish public life? The Secretary General of the Department of Justice has held his nerve and, – critically his position – even as former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, ex-Justice Minister Alan Shatter and garda Confidential Recipient Oliver Connolly fell on their swords.
Mr Purcell, the most senior official in the department, has a unique insight into the events leading up to the decision – if it truly was a personal decision – by Mr Callinan to retire.
Only the Secretary General can answer the question of whether he was in fact dispatched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to effectively sack the Commissioner. Yesterday, Mr Purcell appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice. Mr Purcell, who stood accused by angry committee members of "running down the clock", refused to answer questions surrounding the Commissioner's departure.
Mr Purcell explained that he was deeply concerned any evidence given in public would undermine any future inquiries.
The Secretary General was summoned to answer questions arising from the publication of a damning report by Senior Counsel Sean Guerin into allegations by garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Mr Purcell's reticence before the committee, no doubt informed by legal advice and the known constraints of Oireachtas hearings, benefits Mr Kenny, whose Government suffered a drubbing in the recent local and European parliament elections.
The Taoiseach claimed the moral high ground at the time of Mr Callinan's retirement for "taking control" of a never-ending series of garda controversies. But his decision not to offer an explanation for his role and that of senior personnel in the lead-up to Mr Callinan's retirement has cost him much in terms of public confidence.