“Ballymun regeneration” : what really happened as explained by resident in tweet thread & video

I have long been interested to know what actually happened in Ballymun – not enough to do extensive research mind you, and one notable sidebar from this thread is that if the were to meet me, his first impression might be to see me as some kind of “Rugby Dad/Newstalk Niall” hybrid, but still I was grateful to him for tweeting this extensive info so I thought I’d share it here. Check out the link at the end to watch the video if the embed isn’t working.

Everything below this line of the post was written or produced by the author in question. JLP

Since Ballymun comes up a lot in discussions of the housing crisis, here’s a thread debunking some of the most persistent myths/misconceptions/lies about the community.

(I made a film about this some years ago, but people were largely indifferent, so this is a capsule summary).

Rugby dads, professional gentrifiers and Newstalk Nialls generally reference Ballymun as a “knee-jerk response” to a housing crisis (mostly false), a utopian project (totally false) and a failed housing model (also false).

The truth is, Ballymun was the Irish state doing what it does “best” – the bare minimum of public provision it can get away with. There was no failure of utopian planning because there was no utopian planning. Promises of cinemas, bowling alleys and amenities were always false.

That said, the blocks themselves were built to a French system and were generally sound, bright and spacious.

Ours had a large living room with private balcony, a large bedroom, two smaller bedrooms, a bathroom with bath and constant hot water, and a decent-sized kitchen.

But it swiftly became apparent that Dublin Corporation (now Dublin City Council) – whose senior officials always resented the fact that the National Building Agency had been entrusted with the lucrative project – had no intention of providing even basic services or maintenance.

In the early years, the community itself plugged this gap. Communal areas were scrupulously maintained by residents. To the best of its ability, an impoverished community stood in for the absent state. It built structures of mutual support and recreation that endured for decades.

Eventually, however, successive economic crises overwhelmed residents. From the 80s onwards, several waves of heroin addiction swept over the area, on the heels of a prescriptions drugs epidemic.

A beleaguered community lost the ability to do the Corpo’s job for it.

While the plethora of community organisations rallied and survived, the area deteriorated physically and economically.

Ballymunners made numerous earnest attempts to engage the state over the heads of the Corpo, which had by now largely abandoned the area to its fate.

These heroic efforts kept the community above water, until, in the late 90s, government finally yielded to pressure and announced a Regeneration project (an earlier attempt in the early 90s having been abandoned at about 10% completion).

This was to be enacted by a new limited company wholly owned by Dublin Corporation – Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL).

Inspired by Blairite thinking/models from the UK (and shipping over some of the same personnel), BRL swiftly decided on total demolition of the high rises

It should be explained here that outright gentrification (displacement and replacement of the community by more affluent residents) was off the table for a variety of reasons; chiefly, the fact that the community itself had forced the state’s hand and had to be won over.

While BRL carried out an elaborate pantomime of consultation (within already-defined parameters), its mission became clear:

Since the area couldn’t be gentrified, an attempt would be made to gentrify its people instead.

This would entail the forcible destruction, not just of the physical infrastructure of the community (tower blocks, green spaces, centralised shopping areas, community centres etc), but of all communal experiences of life in Ballymun.

BRL was quite explicit about this. The purpose of the Regeneration was to liquidate the existing community of Ballymun, with its communal forms of solidarity, and to allow residents to be reborn as responsible, market-oriented individual consumers.

The hodge-podge of architectural styles (sidenote: between 1997 and 2014, BRL spent €98.7m on professional fees alone) were all designed to achieve this.

Gone were the sweeping open spaces and the central meeting places that had fostered a community.

In their place – isolated developments that encouraged, and enforced, suspicion and exclusion of all but one’s immediate neighbours.

Ballymun’s vast network of community organisations – from football clubs to legal aid to tenants’ associations – was systematically dismantled.

These relics of non-market community identity (as BRL saw them) were brought under the banner of a BRL-run Neighbourhood Council, which was run into the ground and dissolved within a couple of years.

A tangent before the conclusion – it is shameful that anyone still parrots BRL’s mantra of “mixed income housing”.

The thinking here (explicitly stated in Ballymun) is that well-adjusted middle-class residents act as role models for their feckless working-class neighbours – vile

The Regeneration was, by every metric except BRL’s own, an abject failure. Estimates of its cost vary from €1bn-€2bn.

Ballymun was destroyed – socially, economically and culturally. The private sector investment on which BRL had based its Blairite fantasies never materialised.

The moral of the story:

When you see planners, politicians and pundits warn of “creating new Ballymuns”, always remember that they, and people who think like them, were given 20 years and a blank cheque to “fix” Ballymun according to their own ideology.

They utterly failed.

What really stuck in their craw about Ballymun was not the widespread, visible poverty (after all, these people have created a city strewn with the tents of the homeless), but the forms of solidarity and resistance to market ideology which Ballymunners carved out for themselves.

So yeah, if a politician, planner or developer arrives in your town with a “regeneration masterplan”, run them out of there before it’s too late.

What kind of “change” does the #GE20 result demand?

[Since recording this article appeared : “Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin agree to exploratory talks“.]

#IrishMediaWatch #GE20 : RTE 9oc News Wed 15.01.20

Mr Varadkar said he was very concerned about the case of a man who was seriously injured after the tent he was sleeping in was removed from the banks of the Grand Canal by an industrial vehicle. 

Housing issue dominates first day of election campaign
Paul Cunningham RTÉ.ie

Now that #GE20 is underway I’m planning to keep an eye on the national media outlets to see how they are covering the campaign trail, just to see how balanced the coverage is. For this first installment I have to say things were better than I expected.

On RTÉ’s Nine O’clock news Wednesday, the election featured third in their running order although the piece was related to the second story, about a homeless man who was badly injured by an industrial vehicle which was cleaning a canal area and apparently didn’t know the man was still in his makeshift tent.

This provided a segué into their election coverage as Leo Varadkar was questioned about it on the campaign trail, and in his remarks he suggested a statement from the Lord Mayor of Dublin was appropriate. In response, Micheál Martin accused the Taoiseach of politicising the tragedy since the Mayor is currently from Fianna Fáil.

After watching the quotes from the two men I thought “this is typical – on a classic progressive issue here’s the two Civil War parties finding a way to argue over anything BUT the search for real solutions.”. But to be a little fair to our national broadcaster, for this topic they did at least broaden the scope of opinion.

We also heard from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who outlined his party’s plans to allocate actual money to address the problem of homelessness by way of improved social housing. The problem with that, of course, is that it’s all very well saying what you;d do if your party held a majority in the Dáil, but the odds of that are slim and none.

Eamonn Ryan of the Greens also chimed in, saying that this was a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Finally Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin appeared more interested in having a pop at RTÉ (re exclusion from debates, something I’d agree with her on if that were the topic) rather than comment on the situation at hand, although it is very possible that the clip was selectively edited.

So no progressive opinion in this piece, although Independent Councillor Anthony Flynn was interviewed for his opinion on the unfortunate homeless man.

VERDICT

As far as I’m concerned, any kind of election coverage that looks for opinion beyond the “Big Two” parties is an achievement by the Irish corporate media. I’ll give them 6 out of 10 for this piece – I wonder will anyone score higher between now and February 8? JLP

“Housing crisis? What housing crisis?” asks Irish mainstream

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“We continue to expand our macroprudential framework to ensure we have the right tools to manage potential risks to financial stability and the addition of the Systemic Risk Buffer will be an important tool for us in building a resilient banking system with sufficient capital buffers to absorb these structural shocks.”

[translation : “We want you to forget this mess is partly our fault by pointing to Brexit and using intentionally complicated economic jargon”]

Article in Journal.ie by Cormac Fitzgerald : “Hard Brexit could cause house prices to fall, Central Bank warns

Discussing the Civil War parties’ positions on #RepealThe8th and #housingcrisis is not discussing the issues

THE ISSUE

I know Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are the two largest parties in Dáil Éireann, but it will always be the position of this site that the ideological differences between them on virtually every issue are minimal, yet to listen to mainstream media you’d think their views are all you need to hear.

THE MEDIA

Podcast by Inside Politics in Irish Times on January 24, 2018

Fianna Fáil Divided / Leo’s Bank of Mum & Dad

THE COMMENT

The Irish Times podcast annoys me more and more every time I listen, but since one of the purposes of this site is to point out the inadequacies of Irish mainstream media, I must continue.

In the latest instalment they spend just over half an hour covering two major issues in Irish politics without so much as even hinting at the position of a party that could be considered ‘left of centre’.

Like I said under ‘The Issue’, I know they are the two largest parties and this is probably why the national newspaper chooses to focus on their positions.  However, I would suggest it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ argument as to whether the media attention is driven by the popular vote or vice versa.

This is why the Irish ‘Left’ needs to get its act together and push for a united front to force the Civil War parties to come together.

#IANWAE