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Ballymun Locals Take Action Against Privatisation

category dublin | miscellaneous | feature author Wednesday December 07, 2005 23:42author by Ireland From Belowauthor email irelandfrombelow at yahoo dot ie Report this post to the editors

Growing Resentment Surfaces As 'Gentrification' Sets In

Picket Sign On Ballymun Building SiteThis story detailing the way in which the "regeneration" of Ballymun in Dublin is turning out to be a free-for-all for private investors, property speculators, builders and landlords, at the expense of the local community is written by Mick Burke, a community activist from Ballymun. It is taken from the first issue of 'Ireland From Below', a non-profit, community newspaper written, produced and published by a voluntary collective which will report on community struggles all over the island of Ireland. Contact details for the paper are included at the end of the article.

At a series of meetings with tenants in the late 1990s, Dublin Corporation set out to persuade the people of Ballymun that demolition and rebuilding were the best – and only – options for the future of the area. A Dublin suburb with the population of Sligo was to be torn down while the people were still living there; at the same time a replacement town was to be built around them.

That option was at first overwhelmingly rejected by the community and only slowly accepted as part of an overall strategy for the area that was intended to change Ballymun forever – from a high unemployment, low-skill ghetto into a vibrant modern town capable of attracting investment at the same time as giving local people pride in rebuilding and reshaping their town.

The regeneration programme has been underway for nearly ten years, and a different picture has emerged, one in which the profits of private investors, property speculators, building giants and private landlords are prioritised over the interests of the long-standing Ballymun community.

A process of creeping privatisation is underway in Ballymun, overseen by Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL), a company set up by Dublin City Council as a means to subvert local democratic control in planning matters and as a smokescreen for commercial interests.

Taking advantage of Ballymun’s Designated Tax Area status, these commercial interests have bought up land and property – mainly in the prime locations in the centre of the new town – while tenants and home-owners alike are being shifted into areas away from the centre of Ballymun into whatever green spaces elsewhere on the estate they can be crammed into. Those living in the older houses on the outer parts of Ballymun are seeing their community green spaces taken away to facilitate and pay for this process.

In short, what was presented to our community as a process of regeneration has turned out to be one of the privatisation of public space, a process that many fear will eventually lead to the complete privatisation of council housing stock in the area.

Growing local resentment came to the surface this summer when residents in east Ballymun picketed and stopped work on a site to prevent a pub being built in the guise of a community centre on Shangan Green. The perception in the Shangan area was that the community was only being given this centre/pub so as to make Ballymunners invisible. This and similar developments direct ordinary Ballymunners away from the new Main Street so they will not be seen by the gentry using the new privately-owned fitness centre or by those passing the town en route to and from the airport.

After eleven weeks on the picket line, the Shangan protesters upped the ante by putting pickets on one of the central sites earmarked for development of a hotel, telling BRL head Ciarán Murray that he could take out high court injunctions against them if he wanted to.

With the Rossport 5 in Cloverhill at the time, and being left in no doubt that the picketers were prepared to follow suit, BRL backed down. The success of the Shangan protesters gave impetus to the formation of an opposition group in August – Ballymun People Before Profits (BPBP). (This group is independent of other groups set up subsequently with similar names.) Tenants, corporation workers, local labour activists and environmentalists issued a call for an investigation into the economics at the heart of the regeneration and set up enquiries into related issues of town planning, health and safety, and law.

For all its problems, Ballymun has always had a strong sense of social identity. This identity is being undermined by BRL’s policies, which require the clearing of the old flats as quickly as possible to make room for private developments. To do this, BRL/Dublin Corporation is resorting to the same ugly tactics used to de-tenantise Sheriff St – only on a much larger scale.

Instead of moving whole blocks at a time, de-tenantising is taking place piecemeal, leaving pockets of tenants isolated on unmaintained, badly lit landings, desperate to move to whatever new housing they are offered. Young people, denied the apprenticeships, education and recreational facilities they were promised, are scapegoated for the inevitable breakdown of social cohesion and rising vandalism.

In the past month BPBP’s militant site monitoring group has successfully forced contractors to comply with safe environmental practices. By involving as many people as possible in its activities they plan to turn around the disastrous effects that “regeneration” is having on the social fabric of Ballymun.


* This article is reproduced from the first issue of Ireland From Below, a not-for-profit newspaper reporting community struggles across Ireland. Ireland From Below is produced and published by a voluntary collective. To find out how to get involved, or where to buy a copy, email: irelandfrombelow@yahoo.ie

ballymun02.jpg

author by Ireland From Belowpublication date Wed Dec 07, 2005 23:01author email irelandfrombelow at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ireland from Below is a new monthly newspaper written by and for people involved in communities across Ireland who are struggling “for humanity, against neo-liberalism”.

We are struggling to develop crèches, environmental projects, social centres, radical education, community media, solidarity work local arts and a million other projects.

We are struggling to prevent community breakdown, to gain health, education and welfare services that should be basic rights, to prevent Irish involvement in war and torture, to stop the deaths of homeless people, and all the rest of “business as usual”.

We are not interested in obsessive chronicling of the trivia of state decision-making (with libel laws stopping discussion of how the actual decisions get taken) – but there’ll be plenty about how the rest of us challenge them.

We’re not interested in the disempowering details of just how bad things have got (as if they had to be that way) – but there’ll be plenty about how people are constructing different worlds.

We’re not interested in happy-clappy consumption pages (whether it’s celebrities, computers or classical music) – but there’ll be plenty of things people are doing for themselves.

The people doing Ireland from Below have learned what they know the hard way – in community projects, direct action camps, campaigning work, street activism, local meetings - outside the comfort zones of “journalists” who rely on state and corporate press offices for their information and read each other for their ideas.

We’re looking for people from other communities, other campaigns, other movements to bring what they know and join us in making a different kind of media from below, working alongside community media, Indymedia, activist newsletters and mailing lists.

If you think you’d like to work with us or want to find out more, there’s an email group at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/community_struggles

If you’d like to contribute an article, or info we can turn into one, send it to irelandfrombelow@yahoo.ie.
Phone Ciara 086-3678501, Laurence
087-9851029, or Martina 087-6522033.

See you in the streets!

The front page of issue one of Ireland From Below
The front page of issue one of Ireland From Below

author by Helpfulpublication date Thu Dec 08, 2005 14:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In Dublin city centre, I see that Ireland From Below is available at Red Ink books, beside the Central Bank in Temple Bar, and Connolly Books, which is just North of the Millennium Bridge. Other places, too, I'm sure: these are just the ones I've noticed.
By the way, it's a brilliant publication.

author by Peter McVeighpublication date Thu Dec 08, 2005 15:35author email mcveigh.peter at gmail dot comauthor address Ballymunauthor phone Report this post to the editors

I wouldn't be surprised if the council doesn't privatise the whole city while its at it! We know what its like here in Ballymun and we oppose privitisation.

 
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