Dáil debates

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Dublin (North Inner City) Development Authority Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members]


2:55 pm

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Over two years ago, in response to gangland murders in Dublin's north inner city and at the request of the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, Mr. Kieran Mulvey produced a report, Creating a Brighter Future, which contains an outline plan for the social and economic regeneration of Dublin's north-east inner city. One of my party colleagues, Mary Fitzpatrick, made a detailed contribution to the Mulvey report. Since its establishment, she has worked with and supported the Taoiseach's north inner city task force. I met Mr. Mulvey as part of his consultations during the period in question. I was in correspondence with the Department of the Taoiseach during the same period. In parallel, Ms Fitzpatrick has worked and is working directly with residents, employers and the North Inner City Community Coalition to address the root causes of dereliction, disadvantage and addiction and to champion the regeneration opportunities in Dublin's north inner city. This Bill results from the work I have done with Ms Fitzpatrick, residents, employers, artists and the North Inner City Community Coalition, whose members' presence in the Visitors Gallery I acknowledge. In introducing this Bill, I acknowledge and commend the work done by the Taoiseach's task force in the north inner city over the course of the past two years and I reaffirm the commitment on this side of the House thereto.

Everyone recognises, however, that the root causes of the problems that resulted in the gangland crime that erupted two years ago did not appear or emerge overnight and, as such, could never be solved overnight. Mr. Mulvey's report was, by its own definition, an outline plan of short-term initiatives. To address such systemic issues as housing, poverty, dereliction, addiction, mental health problems and economic development, we feel very strongly that a long-term strategic approach is needed to provide a more substantive response backed with statutory authority. For this reason, on behalf of the north inner city community, we are calling on the Government through this Bill to make a sustained and long-term commitment to addressing the challenges and to champion holistically the unique urban regeneration opportunities that exist in our capital's north inner city. I want to identify how this Bill will build on and enhance the work commenced by the task force. I also want to ask for the House's support for the establishment of a statutory north inner city development authority.

The geographical definition of Dublin's north inner city has been a matter of debate. The Taoiseach's task force defines it as a small compact area extending from Busáras and Connolly Station to Croke Park, bordering parts of Dorset Street and O'Connell Street on the west and extending to the edge of East Wall, comprising an area with a population of approximately 20,000. The city council, the North Inner City Community Coalition and our Bill define the north inner city as the geographical area that stretches from the walls of the Phoenix Park to the urban villages of Stoneybatter and Phibsborough, the markets, O'Connell Street, Ballybough, Drumcondra, North Strand and Seville Place and as far as North Wall and East Wall. The local electoral districts are listed in the Bill.

The disparity between the task force definition of the north inner city and what is otherwise universally accepted as the north inner city has unintended negative consequences. It creates local conflict because it excludes core parts of the north inner city, for example East Wall and everywhere west of O'Connell Street. In my early days as spokesperson on Dublin, I met groups that had not been included in the area delineated by the Taoiseach's initial task force. This means that struggling inner city community services are excluded from desperately needed task force support simply because they fall outside the defined area. One example comprises the community technical training centre and the adult and older people's services in Henrietta Street and the community services in Sean O'Casey community centre, East Wall. These are just two examples. This Bill would correct that inconsistency and ensure an all-inner-city inclusive approach that would address and support all the north inner city, not just a subsection.

The north inner city is an important and highly visible part of our capital. It is the first place most overseas visitors to our city encounter after landing at Dublin Airport. The north inner city is rich with history, culture and potential. The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks, Arbour Hill Cemetery, the ancient village of Stoneybatter, the regenerated Smithfield Square, the fruit and vegetable markets, the Complex arts centre, the Four Courts, Georgian Mountjoy, Parnell Square, Henrietta Street, Moore Street, Henry Street, O'Connell Street, the General Post Office, the Gate and Abbey theatres, Busáras, Connolly Station, the Convention Centre Dublin, the 3Arena and Dublin Port are all located in this area. All these places are easily recognised, both nationally and internationally. The challenges associated with housing, poverty, dereliction and disadvantage in the north inner city are enormous, however.

The north inner city appears as an area of average to affluent economic advantage but it is made up of mixed communities of affluence and significant disadvantage that, blended, appear economically healthy. Economic disadvantage, where it occurs in the north inner city, is severe. It is often the result of poor health, poor housing, unemployment and a lack of education. Economic and social disadvantage is often experienced on a multi-generational basis. Child poverty, female poverty and housing poverty are acute for some. Poverty is obviously evident from the low level of home ownership. Seventy-seven percent of the population in this area live in rented accommodation. Fewer than 25% of people in Dublin's north inner city on their own home. The north inner city has the highest concentration of homelessness services in the city.

The most recent daft.ierents report again highlights the north inner city as one of the most expensive places in the country in which to rent, with the highest annual increase in residential rent charges.

There is zero delivery of affordable homes, available or being constructed, but there are acres of State-owned lands that have been zoned and serviced for housing in O'Devaney Gardens, Dominick Street and Seán MacDermott Street. The projects in these locations are progressing at a snail's pace despite being launched and championed as landmark proposals under the Government's Rebuilding Ireland plan. Hundreds of State-owned flats at Matt Talbot Court, St. Mary's Place, Dorset Street, Constitution Hill and other complexes are boarded up and should be redeveloped and made available as quality, affordable inner city homes. The north inner city development authority we are proposing would, if established, have the authority to drive and deliver such redevelopment at an accelerated pace.

Dereliction is a blight on the north inner city. Initiatives to address and reverse dereliction are not working and are taking too long. The Minister of State will know that more than one third of property on O'Connell Street - Dublin's main street - is unoccupied, underutilised or derelict. The North Circular Road, Dorset Street and Amiens Street, all main city routes, look forgotten, unloved and neglected. Similarly, the tortuously slow development by the State of the national monument site on Moore Street, the long promised city library in the old Coláiste Mhuire building on Parnell Square and the development of the Magdalen laundry site on Seán MacDermott Street, to name but a few, are proof that the approach being taken has not worked. The State should not tolerate or foster such dereliction. It is unreasonable to expect private interests to invest in an area where the State demonstrates little or no obvious commitment. The State should incentivise regeneration and redevelopment in this area and penalise dereliction.

A State-backed development authority would send a clear message to private interests that the State is interested in regenerating the area, and that would encourage investment. The State-backed development authorities for Temple Bar, the Docklands and Grangegorman attracted billions of euro in private investment. A State-backed development authority for Dublin's north inner city could do the same. The north inner city of Dublin is arguably the most socially and ethnically diverse part of our country, with more than 40% of the its population identifying as non-Irish. This diversity must be recognised and catered for in all social and economic development plans for the area.

My colleague, Deputy Curran, has more to say on this matter.


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