Tuesday, 1 June 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
68. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he has taken since he took the decision to abolish an agency (details supplied); and his plans regarding the lands, contracts and staff of the agency. [29386/21]
As the Government proposes to dissolve the Digital Hub Development Agency, what steps does the Minister of State propose to take to retain the cluster of digital companies that are in the digital hub in the Liberties?
I thank the Deputy. I know he has previously asked this question about the digital hub so it is obviously a topic of interest to him.
Following a strategic review, which concluded that the digital hub is no longer required to sustain the continued growth of Dublin's digital enterprise sector, the Government decided on 27 April that the Digital Hub Development Agency, DHDA, should be dissolved and its land and property assets transferred to the Land Development Agency, LDA. This decision has been communicated to the board of the DHDA, the chief executive of Dublin City Council and to the LDA.
The Government remains fully committed to the regeneration of the Liberties area of Dublin 8 and is of the view that redevelopment by the LDA of the DHDA properties in conjunction with properties in the area owned by the Office of Public Works, OPW, and Dublin City Council represents a priority and transformative project for Dublin. Preliminary modelling by the LDA has suggested this could include the construction of 500 social and affordable housing units, along with civic, community and retail development.
I will shortly request the board of the DHDA to prepare a programme for an orderly wind-down, addressing the needs of the staff of the DHDA, client companies and communications with the local communities. My Department will work closely with the DHDA on the finalisation of the necessary steps, including the redeployment of its permanent staff within the public sector. My Department has met with the LDA following the Government decision and it is also keenly aware of the need and value of community engagement as part of its plans for the regeneration of the area. It will work closely with the DHDA, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the LDA to ensure the wind-down takes account of the needs of the community.
The Minister of State is correct that I have raised this matter on a number of occasions. It is a bizarre decision to collapse what was, and is, a successful enterprise and successful regeneration of an area which underwent huge urban decay and has managed to come out of it. It is illogical to transfer the 5.6 acres from the digital hub to the Land Development Agency. There are problems in regard to the Land Development Agency anyway. There are other sites as large and maybe larger in the Dublin 8 area that are in State hands. There is no shortage of land in State hands for housing, but there is a shortage of good businesses. The digital hub has sustained employment in the area. It is illogical in this day and age to be moving companies out of a community when many in that community are employed in them. I ask that the decision be reconsidered before the damage is done.
The DHDA did great work over that time.
It regenerated the area and brought businesses back into it. However, the view at this stage is that its purpose has been served and it has delivered what it was asked to do. Dublin city is filled with enterprises and start-ups but what is lacking is housing. Providing housing for 500 families is a really critical thing to do. It is not just about providing 500 units or apartments but enabling 500 families to live in a community, with access to the amenities they need and the associated retail. It is another form of regeneration. Business is not the only form of regeneration we can bring to the Liberties. There is still start-up activity going on in the Liberties and there is the National Digital Research Centre, NDRC. The approach we are taking is the correct one and the right way to go about it.
Again, what the Minister of State is saying is illogical. While Dublin may be successful in attracting businesses, the Liberties area has been because of the Digital Hub but that facility will not be there in the future. Housing is not the only issue. As I said, the State has quite a lot of land in close proximity to the area, including in Bridgefoot Street, St. Michael's Estate, the CIÉ works land, which nobody is talking about, OPW land and two sites on Davitt Road. All of those sites are quite large. Nobody is talking about what will happen to the children's hospital in Crumlin when the new hospital opens. These are all places where homes can be built for families. There is a need for housing in the Liberties and I have been condemning what is happening in terms of those developments. However, I find it very strange that a Minister in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is happy to transfer land that is being used for enterprise to the housing sector rather than looking at the sustainability of the community in the long run and the importance of having jobs on people's doorsteps.
Does the Minister of State agree it is a bit ironic that members of Sinn Féin, who continually lambast the Government about its housing strategy, seek, on every conceivable occasion, to oppose the provision of housing on public lands? This is yet another example of that.
I do not want to misrepresent Deputy Ó Snodaigh but my understanding is that he is asking why we have to build housing on this particular site when there are plenty of other sites that could be used. He is saying that we should not build it in this place when it could be built in some other place. In fact, it is not an either-or choice. The sites the Deputy mentioned should also be developed for housing. One or two housing sites are not going to do it. We need a great deal of high-quality, new community housing within Dublin city centre. This particular development will bring fantastic regeneration. We do not have to choose between one and the other.
The Deputy referred to the children's hospital in Crumlin. There is a new children's hospital being built and there will be many staff working in that hospital who will need to live somewhere. Many of them will find homes and communities and build families in Dublin 8, including in the Liberties, and will rejuvenate the area. I was in Thomas Street recently and saw how it is being regenerated. The Liberties is getting better and becoming a stronger and more resilient community.
I will not engage in attacking Sinn Féin.