Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Dublin (North Inner City) Development Authority Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members]
The Labour Party will support the legislation, but we have many reservations about elements of it. We need a discussion on what is happening in Dublin's north inner city.
The first principle of the legislation is that it needs to define the area. I know the Bill is very much inspired by the Mulvey report, but the area identified in the Bill is roughly two and a half times the area covered by the Mulvey report. That means the same amount of money would need to be spread over more than twice the area. That aspect of the Bill needs to be addressed. The Mulvey report area covers the north-east inner part of the city and even there some areas are not included, whereas, based on my reading, the area defined in the Bill goes into lower Phibsborough, the Phoenix Park and the north-west inner part of the city, including areas such as Oxmantown Road, Stoneybatter and Manor Street. Some work needs to be done on that.
I know Fianna Fáil cannot do this because the Government would block the Bill, but we need an indication of the proposed funding.
On the geographic area we are discussing, I point out that the north-west inner part of the city has had one of the biggest regeneration programmes under way for a long period of time. I refer to the Grangegorman Development Authority and the development of the Dublin Institute of Technology, DIT.
The authority has been quite successful in incorporating local community activities and recognition into its schedule of activities. It is an existing authority which has been in place for the best part of a decade. If the people who drafted up the Bill were to visit the Grangegorman campus, I am sure they would be given a lot of food for thought. There is a great deal of development going on in terms of student building, perhaps too much. That also needs to be considered because there is a definite need for new social units - either apartments or houses - in the north inner city. There are many examples as one goes down towards the quays of very successful social housing which was built in the 1990s and earlier and which is extremely successful and desirable. There are good models of success within the area to which I refer but there are also places where there is much dereliction. A couple of these have been mentioned. I refer, for example, to Aldborough House, one of our most important Georgian buildings, which is now a wreck. In the context of regeneration, pride of place in the Grangegorman area goes to Stoneybatter, where our former colleague, Joe Costello, has been particularly involved with the local community in putting on a series of events.
The proposed development authority is Fianna Fáil's suggestion of a model for areas that have been left behind. I am delighted that there has been an immense recovery in employment. What is equally clear - the Government has turned a deaf ear to it - is that because near full employment has returned in many places, there are now stand-out areas and groups that are being left behind. Given that there is a special focus in this Bill, the approach is probably worth examining as a template for people and areas that have been left behind right. On the southside of Dublin's inner city, in the area served by a colleague of mine, Councillor Rebecca Moynihan, one just has to drive up the hill to see that it is full of derelict sites, some of which local people have tried - with some success - to turn into gardens and green areas. I am conscious that while the Bill refers to the north-east inner city, or perhaps the whole of the north inner city, there are lots of areas in the city that need support to have more recovery and employment, education, training and apprenticeship opportunities for young people, and the development of community and cultural activity. That is really important.
Where the Bill refers to the people who may serve on the development authority, there is no mention of either the Department of Education and Skills or Tusla. The latter are both really important in the context of the north inner city. Belvedere College is located in one part of the north inner city. On the other side, children are leaving school early. They are not being helped to go on further. The Bill needs to deal with education and opportunity issues very clearly. I say this as former Minister for Social Protection. At this point, the model of community employment needs to be revamped. We need to look at something like the jobs initiative that would give guaranteed employment for ten years or more. I introduced a provision that allowed people on community employment, CE, schemes who reached the age of 62 to continue until 66. That has been really popular right around the country. With a bit of imagination, a Bill such as this could be used to rethink where we go with CE schemes in terms of key employment and community activity positions being made available for communities in Dublin and elsewhere that have been left behind.
The Minister of State might be able to confirm that the Taoiseach will turn up in Dominick Street next week - perhaps in the company of the Minister of State - to again turn the sod on the derelict site. The site at the bottom of Dominick Street, which is one of the locations covered by the Bill, is very large. Why is the sod going to be turned again? I have lost count of the number of Ministers and people in authority who have turned the sod at this site, which remains derelict. Is what is proposed just a twinkle in somebody's eye or is it actually going to happen? We had the spectacle not too long ago of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, the Taoiseach and perhaps the Lord Mayor standing on their own in the middle of O'Devaney Gardens with a few small signs that the building of 60 houses was about to commence. Those houses would be very welcome but it should be borne in mind that, like Dominick Street, the site in question has been lying derelict for over 12 years.
There is another issue about which I wish to ask the Minister of State. The part of the north inner city we are discussing contains a huge number of people who have immigrated from countries right around the world. It is also the home of Pavee Point - which is located in Mountjoy Square - the home of the Traveller movement in Ireland. We need to think more widely. The area is also the home of the Abbey Theatre and the Gate Theatre. The cultural development and growth of the area is really important to how well it does in the future particularly for young people. The area needs community police. One would travel far in Dublin these days to see a community policeman or policewoman walking around a locality.