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Ballymun Locals Take Action Against Privatisation
Wednesday December 07, 2005 23:42 by Ireland From Below irelandfrombelow at yahoo dot ie
Growing Resentment Surfaces As 'Gentrification' Sets In
This 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: firstname.lastname@example.org