Dáil debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Ceisteanna - Questions

Urban Renewal Schemes

4:10 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I will pick up on a few of the questions that were asked by Deputies. I note the Deputies' comments and will respond to their direct questions. Deputy Ellis asked about the Magdalen laundry site. As Deputies will be aware, Dublin City Council voted against the sale of the former convent and laundry on Sean MacDermott Street. The proposed plans were for the development of a hotel and social housing units for older people on the site. In that context, it is not entirely correct to say that the council has no plans for social housing in the area. The council actually did have plans but they were voted down by the city councillors in this particular instance. Sadly, that is happening more and more all over Dublin. There were also plans for a suitable memorial to the Magdalen women, which would have brought investment and footfall to the area. There are, of course, a lot of understandable sensitivities around the site, given its former use but I am hopeful that the land will be developed for the benefit of the area and the residents, while respecting the difficult history of the location.

Deputy Micheál Martin raised the issue of local community development and I acknowledge that he has raised this issue on many occasions in the past. There are lots of ways to deliver local community development. My constituency has quite a number of pockets of deep disadvantage, as does the Deputy's. Sometimes community development is done through vehicles like local drugs task forces and the DEIS programme in education, which most people will acknowledge has improved education outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The CLÁR programme for depopulated rural areas is important, as is the use of local community development committees, LCDCs, as a vehicle for the delivery of local community development. It is too soon to judge whether the north east inner city model is one that should be followed and replicated in the future. No one would question the excellent work that has been done by the group in recent years but ultimately any appraisal has to be based on outcomes. We would have to take one or two similar areas around the country and compare the outcomes there with the outcomes in the north east inner city to assess whether all of the good work and investment has actually led to an improvement in measurable outcomes. It will take a couple of years before we can know that for sure. We need to make a distinction between good work and good outcomes because they can be quite different.

In terms of the politicisation of Government grants, I do not accept that criticism. Any grants that are announced by the Government must be applied for and there is an appraisal and evaluation system in operation. Often there is a scoring system too and then the Minister announces the successful grantees. Then a flurry of freedom of information requests are submitted to make sure that there was no political interference in the process and I am assured that it is not the case.

When I was the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I was very involved, along with the then Minister of State, Deputy Ring, in changing the sports capital programme so that it was less political and had a proper scoring system.

Each county got an amount of money relative to the number of people living in that county rather than where the Minister might be from. Those criteria have been retained for the sports capital grants by subsequent Ministers.

I am sorry to hear about the condition of some of the social housing around Dorset Street, as mentioned by Deputy Boyd Barrett. I know that area well for lots of different reasons. I cannot comment on Dublin City Council's plan but suffice it to say that Dublin City Council is a council that is now very much dominated by left wing political forces. If there is any attempt being made to run down the area, surely they should take some responsibility for-----

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