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Cllr Dermot Lacey

Representing Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council
Dermot Lacey is a Labour Party Councillor for the Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council. Dermot has been a member of Dublin City Council since 1993, and lives in Beech Hill, Donnybrook.
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 / Cllr Dermot Lacey ƒ Representing Pembroke-South Dock Ward on Dublin City Council

Housing article – Sunday Business Post

This is the full original text of an article submitted to the Sunday Business Post, an abridged version of which was published in last Sunday’s edition.

For those of us on the broad Left, Housing has always been a key issue. It is the issue, more than any other that keeps me in public life. It is for me, the Civil Rights issue of the generation. Other issues and contemporary causes sometime acquire that claim, but the right to a home, a safe and secure place to live and raise a family is enduring and surely one of the most fundamental rights we should have as citizens in a modern Republic.
For Labour, the right and indeed duty of the State to intervene in the Market to deliver good quality homes is central to our very being. The record of the Party during any term of office and in any office with a housing remit has been second to none. That is why Elaine Byrne’s inadequate and deeply ill- informed article last week was so wrong and so offensive.
Blaming the Labour Party for not implementing the 1974 Kenny Report is a case in point. Labour supports its implementation. I support its implementation. That Report provided for the acquisition of development land for existing use value plus 20%. It always seemed to me a fair and socially just proposal. But Elaine seems to forget the little problem of Dail arithmetic and the fact that; of the twenty Ministers for the Environment since the report was issued, five have been Labour. Fifteen have been our Political opponents.
Those opposing Ministers have included such luminaries as; Ray Burke, Padraig Flynn, Dick Roche, Martin Cullen and Peter Barry. Not exactly to the fore of progressive wealth sharing advocates. However Jimmy Tully, who as Minister in the difficult financial times of the 1970’s, delivered a massive inner city housing programme is according to Elaine more blameworthy for a 2016 Housing crisis, than his Fine Gael cabinet colleagues who then and since have resolutely opposed implementing the Kenny Report but….Elaine blames Labour.
During the forty two years since the report was issued Labour has held the relevant cabinet post for less than a quarter of the period. The major Parties, with whom we have shared power during that time, have resolutely opposed the implementation of that Report and yet …Elaine blames Labour.
When Labour brings in the very first 20% Social and Affordable provision through the Dublin Docklands Development Council Masterplan, a policy National Government later adopted, the relevance is ignored and while others cause the collapse of a social housing programme…..Elaine blames Labour.
The simple truth is that the cause of our housing crisis was the abandonment of a Social Housing strategy by the Governments led by Bertie Ahern and the apparent indifference of most of the Social Partners and the media to the issue. The creation of the so called Affordable Housing Partnership as a lynch pin of Social Housing policy was a disaster and yet when I consistently tried to highlight the impact of their strategy of social housing in rural areas in return for private housing on urban State lands it was ignored.
When I and other Labour representatives consistently raised the inadequacy of the interfering, bureaucratic Department of the Environment on issues relating to housing (and indeed much else) it is ignored. When Labour and other Councillors from all over Ireland tried to highlight the pending social housing crisis throughout the Celtic Tiger years the media supplemented by glossy and valuable property pages ignored the time bomb and yet …….Elaine blames Labour.
Critical analysis of policy positions is an important part of our political dialogue. I welcome informed analysis of our record and policies. Elaine Byrne might look at Jan O’Sullivan’s successful record in dealing with ghost estates. She might look at the immediate impact of Alan Kelly’s directives and funding for the resolution of the problem of “voids” –empty flats – an issue ignored by a succession of previous Ministers. But no Elaine in her polemic is more interested in laying the blame than identifying the blameworthy.
As Labour Group Leader on Dublin City Council I welcome the proposals announced by Simon Coveney. He and his plan deserve a chance and he will get every support from the Labour Group in Dublin City. I am proud that, when others who are “noisy” on the Housing issue on the City Council opposed Housing and Homeless initiatives we supported them. When others apparently on the “Left” opposed extra funding for Homeless services we provided for and voted for them and when others, on spurious planning grounds, opposed homeless hostels we supported them .…..and yet Elaine blames Labour
However it is what we do now that is important. The “Rebuilding Ireland” document published by Simon Coveney is a good start – but that is all it is – a start.
To achieve its laudable objectives there must be real reform of the Department of the Housing, Planning and Local Government. There must be an absolute guarantee of funding. There must be a freeing up of Local Councils ability to implement local housing strategies based on their local knowledge and expertise. Above all there must be a recognition that the Market cannot alone resolve our housing crisis. We must get back to direct build as well as supporting other forms of housing provision. I have no ideological hang ups about how we deliver. But deliver we must.
Labour deserves its share of criticism for not achieving all we would have liked in the area of housing and indeed other areas. However within several months of becoming the first Labour Minister for the Environment in nearly twenty years Alan Kelly secured the largest ever investment to date in housing capital provision. The fruits of that are all around us with long delayed social housing initiatives underway or at planning stage. Yes Labour made mistakes but we also, as soon as it was possible delivered. In my own area the regeneration of Charlemont Street flats and the pending planning application for a new 20 unit scheme in Donnybrook are but examples. We have a record of delivery as opposed to inaction ……and yet Elaine blames Labour.
If this Fine Gael/Fianna Fail/Independent Coalition want to implement the Kenny Report we will support them. If they don’t ….please Elaine …blame someone else.

Dermot Lacey is Leader of the Labour Group on Dublin City Council and a former Chairperson of the Housing Committee.

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