Seanad Éireann - Volume 128 - 13 March, 1991
Adjournment Matter. - Darndale (Dublin) Estate.
Mr. S. Haughey Mr. S. Haughey
Mr. S. Haughey: I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this item to be taken on the Adjournment. I also thank the Minister of State for being here so late this evening to take this matter.
The last time I spoke at length in this House about Darndale was a few years ago when problems emerged in relation to travellers encamped on the Darndale link road adjacent to the Darndale estate. At that time, real unrest existed in Darndale because of the unsatisfactory living conditions of the travellers involved. Thankfully, that matter has now been resolved. In consultation with local community organisations the Department of the Environment provided funding for special housing schemes at Grove Lane and Caragh Park, and Dublin Corporation gave special preference to travellers in their allocation policy for the area.
Darndale is a Dublin Corporation housing estate on the northern city boundary. It consists of 921 houses. When the estate was built in the seventies it won design awards. What emerged, however, was a disaster. The housing was of poor quality and many social problems emerged. Tenants continually complained of defects and maintenance problems. Unemployment and problems associated with poverty contributed to ensure that Darndale simply was not a desirable place to live in. The community in Darndale was further damaged following the introduction of the £5,000  house purchase grant scheme. What seems to have happened is that half the tenants, including many of the active community leaders in the estate, simply left the area and purchased private houses.
During the eighties, however, the people of Darndale began to fight back. A group of young people from Darndale, known as the “Image Changers”, set about changing the image of their own area. In response to this community initiative the Government and Dublin Corporation decided to implement a remedial works scheme for the Darndale estate. I pay tribute to the Minister, Deputy Flynn, and to the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, for making the necessary finance available for phases one, two and three of the Darndale remedial works scheme. The situation to date is as follows: phase one involving 81 houses at Primrose Grove and phase two consisting of 119 houses at Buttercup Park, are now completed. Phase three has been sanctioned. A builder has been appointed and work is about to commence. I pay tribute to all concerned in preparing these plans. The new, refurbished houses are a great improvement on the old and credit is due to Dublin Corporation and the personnel employed there. There are some outstanding complaints in relation to phases one and two but I am hopeful that these will be dealt with in due course in the normal matter.
I regret to inform the Minister that problems have emerged in relation to the haste of the refurbishment works. There are many hardworking community groups in the Darndale area and several of them have contacted me recently expressing concern in this regard. These groups include the Darndale Tenants' and Residents' Association, the Darndale Belcamp Development Association and another group called THREAD, which is an amalgamation of several groups, and also more recently the local parish priest, Father Oliver Barry. I  might just mention as an aside that Darndale has a great community spirit. There are literally 40 community organisations working in the community and I do not think you will get that kind of dedication in many communities throughout the country.
I know the House would like me to extend sympathy to the family of the late, hardworking and popular chairman of the Darndale Tenants' and Residents' Association, Mr. George Lynch. He certainly will be sadly missed in the community.
At the present rate of progress in relation to the refurbishment programme, it may take up to ten years to complete the entire estate. Many tenants simply do not know when their house will be refurbished. The tenants are poorly motivated to maintain their houses and, indeed, their general environment. The new plan for social housing and its emphasis on private housing may lead to a new exodus from Darndale. This would be a worrying development as the community could become even further destabilised. The community is now being divided between the haves and the have-nots, those who are in newly refurbished houses and those in the old houses. This has led to envy, mistrust, frustration and even despair in some cases. This delay in dividing the community and it offers no incentive to those awaiting the redesign to feel settled or to feel pride and interest in their own area. Tenants complain also that essential repairs are not being carried out quickly by the local authority pending the redesign of the houses.
The members of Dublin City Council and the corporation management are very much aware of these new, emerging problems. We have asked, as a city council, that phases four, five, six and seven be submitted to the Department of the Environment together for sanction and that they be completed on a rolling basis. The corporation management informed the members of the housing  construction committee on 28 February 1991 that they wrote to the Department of the Environment seeking permission to submit phases four, five, six and seven together.
I thank the Minister for the Environment and his junior Ministers for their help and co-operation to date. I ask the Minister to accede to this request from Dublin City Council. It is essential for the prosperity of Darndale that the speed of the refurbishment works be increased and that the necessary funding be provided.
Minister of State at the Department of the Gaeltacht (Mr. Gallagher) Pat "the Cope" Gallagher
Minister of State at the Department of the Gaeltacht (Mr. Gallagher): Before I deal with the Darndale project, I would like to say a few words about the remedial works scheme in general and in particular the role it plays in local authority housing. I want to make it clear that the management and maintenance of their rented dwellings are matters for the local authorities, to be funded from their revenue resources. The remedial works scheme was introduced to assist them in tackling major structural problems which it was recognised would put an intolerable strain on these resources. Eligible works include the refurbishment of dwellings built under low cost arrangements, pre-1940 dwellings in need of structural repairs and modern sanitary facilities and certain run-down urban estates.
Darndale is one of approximately 75 estates which are benefiting from the scheme. As Senator Haughey pointed out, Darndale is a 921 house estate built by the corporation in the seventies. The refurbishment involves a redesign of the original estate layout as well as structural works to the houses. Because of the size of the project and the high cost involved, over £12 million is appropriate and it should be carried out on a phased basis. However, I must emphasise that the location and the number of dwellings involved in each phase and the amount to be assigned to the project from their annual remedial work scheme allocation  are entirely matters for decision by the corporation. To date, phases one and two, 81 houses in Primrose Grove and 119 houses in Buttercup Park have been completed.
Following the recent approval of the Minister for the Environment for the acceptance of a tender, work is about to commence on phase three — 119 houses at Primrose Grove. Preliminary documentation in respect of phase four to 112 houses in Marigold Court is being examined in the Department of the Environment. The corporation's proposals in regard to future tendering procedures are also under examination in the Department of the Environment and the Department will be in contact with the corporation about this matter as soon as possible.
Darndale is one of seven Dublin Corporation housing estates which have been designated for funding under the remedial works scheme. The others are Ballymun, Cherry Orchard, Blessington Street, St. Mary's Mansions, Fatima Mansions and Oliver Bond House. The total estimated cost of these projects is in the region of £80 million. The corporation have to date been allocated capital totalling some £13.4 million in respect of these schemes, including £5.3 million or one-third of the total available nationally in 1990. The apportionment of the allocation between their approved schemes, including Darndale, is entirely a matter for themselves but it must be recognised that an increase in expenditure in Darndale in any year must involve a cutback on one or more of the remaining schemes. That is a matter for decision by the corporation and not for the Department of the Environment.
There can scarcely be a Senator who has not seen the beneficial effects of a remedial scheme project in his or her own area. It is an excellent scheme geared to preserving and improving the existing housing stock. I must, however, make it clear that it is not a substitute for a properly planned and executed programme of  management and maintenance and should not be seen as relieving an authority of their responsibility for keeping their housing stock in good condition. It would also be unreasonable to expect them to deal overnight with the backlog of problems which have built up over the years. That the Government are committed to the scheme is evident from the increase in capital allocations from an outturn of £1.5 million back in 1986 to £16 million in 1991. It is, of course, open to the corporation to supplement from their own revenue resources the allocations made by the Department as a means of expediting work in Darndale.
There is, I am sure, much that can be  done to improve the housing in general and the environmental conditions of those tenants whose dwellings are not due for immediate refurbishment. It is also essential that they should take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the management and maintenance of the estate is such as to ensure that the benefits of the refurbishment continue in the longer term, that the substantial investment in the project is protected and that the quality of their housing accommodation is maintained in the future for the benefit of the residents of Darndale.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.35 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 14 March 1991.
Seanad Éireann 128 Adjournment Matter. Darndale (Dublin) Estate.