28th February 2001
Dublin has a perpetual space crisis. Most of the main problems facing Dubliners have, in some form or another, to do with the use of space.
The hard drugs problems are concentrated in areas with no facilities. The traffic crisis is caused by people having to travel further and longer to work. The lack of residential development land near the city centre is sending prices rocketing.
All this might lead you to believe that Dublin is a crowded and cramped place. In fact, the Dublin city area, less than a third as densely populated as Hong Kong.
Why doesn’t it feel like it?
Dublin has a large amount of green space within its boundaries, starting with the Phoenix Park.
Now, mention that the Phoenix Park needs development and you’re looking to have a lynch mob on your tail. But the question has to be asked – are we getting the most out of the area within the walls of the park?
The answer is no. The facilities that are provided are very low grade – no dressing rooms, no clubs allowed to put down roots, while acres of flat green fields offer little amenity or decent walks.
We could allow more sports clubs to develop enclosed sports grounds in areas of the park. A single football club can provide facilities for hundreds of people of all ages on an acre or two of ground.
But if the use of the Phoenix Park is dubious, then the use of the Farmleigh estate across the wall is absolutely scandalous.
Bought at a cost to the taxpayer of £23 million, this 78 acres of parkland has been reserved for the use of the cabinet and visiting dignitaries.
In my view this is the biggest scandal in the life of this Government and they have gotten away with it without a whimper from the public (see below).
Meanwhile, dozens if not hundreds of small clubs in the Castleknock, Blanchardstown and Mulhuddart areas have no facilities of their own.
And never will have.
Now Abbottstown is earmarked for the National Stadium campus where the elite can strut their stuff. Again, local clubs can’t get their hands on a bit of rough ground, while spending on the big plan won’t stop at a billion punts.
But a huge proportion of the open space is neither public space not even open to the public. Thousands of acres belong to golf clubs. This is a miserable use of scarce resources. I enjoy a round of golf myself so I don’t have a problem with the game itself.
As I say, most sports clubs can provide facilities for hundreds of children and adults with a couple of acres, while a golf club takes hundreds of acres to provide facilities to a similar number of people.
It’s time this was stopped. If land can be compulsorily purchased to provide for roads then it can be compulsorily purchased to provide the greatest return to the whole community.
Imagine what a local football club could do with two acres of green grass. It could build a clubhouse to provide facilities for its members and the wider community. It could teach its youngsters to be proud of what they have built and to encourage a sense of ownership and commitment to the place.
Imagine what 50 such clubs could do with 100 acres of ground.
But instead, 600 yards of open space 50 yards wide will only provide one 5-par hole if it’s left on a golf course.
There are five or six golf courses within five miles of the city centre. A plan should be put in place to move these clubs out of the city and into the green belt.
Furthermore, there should be a complete audit of all the open space in the city to see if it could be better used. This would also include the considerable land bank in the ownership of religious institutions.
At this point many people raise the constitutional protection of private property. OK, but the constitution allows for the exercise of the common good. It’s not like I’m proposing to put people out of their homes.
There is a clear onus on the elected authorities to ensure that Dubliners get the most benefit out of the land they live on.
|As well as that…|
The Farmleigh scandal remains
DUBLINERS have paid for the Farmleigh Estate three times. First as Guinness workers, then as drinkers and now as taxpayers.
But despite that, us peasants won’t be allowed up to the door of the big house.
Without any public consultation, without any debate, without a thought for what the most beneficial use of the place might be, the Government decided to spend £23 million up front and God-knows-how-much since to provide a place for cabinet meetings and visiting VIPs.
The public will have access whenever the bigwigs feel we’re up to it, on a few controlled days a year.
The 78 acres of level ground which could provide facilities to thousands of local youngsters will instead be used to feed cattle.
I reported on this story at the time. I expected a huge political row.
But we’re obviously such a pushover now that the Government needn’t worry about any claims to equity or fairness.
Maybe it was a trial run for the Bertie Bowl venture where hundreds of millions will be spent on a few elite sports stars while the majority get kitted out in truck containers.
I wonder if the fundamental values of this state in any way now resemble a republic.