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Tag Archives: Dublin

Very seldom do needs and ambitions combine to create a unique opportunity. It’s happening in Inchicore.

The League of Ireland football club, St. Patrick’s Athletic, are asking local election candidates in Dublin City to support their plan to build a new centre for Inchicore with community facilities, shops and extraordinarily a new football stadium on the roof. It involves demolition of the old Richmond Park stadium and a land swap.

Now the football club are seeking the support of all political parties for what they see – correctly – as a viable proposal. For candidates with working class credentials, however, it assumes an enormous significance.

Inchicore is an old, industrial working class town. What it needs most at present is a vibrant centre so that its citizens and visitors can have ordinary facilities – shopping, walking around, drinking coffee, meetings etc. The Pats  plan offers to deliver without spending state money. Opponents want to build houses on the prime central site.

Objections to the plan can be summarised as arguing that it is too good for Inchicore and there is a patronising class perspective running through them. These objectors (Let’s be blunt: they’re mostly middle class outsiders.) just don’t get it that Inchicore needs the kind of development that all towns strive for theses days.

Here are some of the objections.

The quite mad basic objection is that the stadium would be too big given the modest attendances at Pats games. Leaving ambition aside, what these objectors fail to see is that the stadium is on top of the centre and its size is dictated by the centre.

It is objected that a centre isn’t needed as there are lots of old shops in the streets which could be developed. On a commercial front, such old shops tend to spring into life again when a centre is developed nearby. Moreover, this centre includes a little stadium bringing people to those shops. On a class front, the objection is that citizens of Inchicore shouldn’t have a centre but should live in a museum-like old town, walking up and down their main street in all weathers with their shopping bags. Feck off!

It’s said that houses must be built on the land. Houses are indeed desperately needed and there are lots of places to build them, including the land made available by demolishing Richmond Park. However, this is a one-off opportunity to redevelop a working class town; build houses on the shopping centre cum stadium site and the opportunity is gone forever.

It’s objected that Pats is a private company and they cannot be given public land. Apart from the land swap involved, the objection is based on a complete failure to understand the nature of a very local football club. No one at all wants to vacate and demolish Richmond Park. It is loved beyond reason. Everyone would prefer to keep and develop it but there are physical and financial constraints.

The Pats proposal is a package: the shops finance the centre and the stadium. It’s the opportunity to bring a working class town up to the standards expected by the working class. That makes it more than business; it’s a class issue.

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The Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, has reported for 2018. The part of the report which particularly shocked me was the long delays in seeing a mental health professional and the lack of round-the-clock care for a young person in crisis. The shock was not the lack of provision as if this was an emerging area of care. No, the shock was the decline from what was available in Dublin (perhaps elsewhere too) in the 60s and 70s – half a century ago!

You see, I know about this and I’m not sure what would have become of me had I faced the wilderness which seems to prevail today.

Shortly after my Inter Cert sometime in the early to mid 1960s, I suffered a breakdown. There’s no need to go into the causes, symptoms and diagnosis here. I want to talk about the public service I received and the extent to which it has declined.

I plunged suddenly, alarmingly and painfully into a mental crisis. I had no idea what was happening, only that I needed help. After a time I found myself seated with my GP (Dr. O’Malley, SC Rd, Kilmainham) a decent, caring man who’d looked after me since I was a child. I was upset when he told me that I’d need to see a psychiatrist. He calmed me and told me about the work of psychiatrists and psychologists. I agreed to see whoever he wanted me to see.

Here’s the part that will shock when compared to today. He made a phone call, wrote me a note and made it absolutely plain that I had to cooperate. The following Tuesday I was seated in a queue at the psychiatric outpatients clinic in the Meath Hospital.

Now, I was not a private patient. I was a public patient in a public clinic.

That first day I was interviewed at length by a psychologist so as to open up a file on me and get things moving. Then I saw a psychiatrist who would treat me.

So began a long, long series of Tuesdays in the crowded, dilapidated clinic, with lots of different drugs unlike the modern, clean ones available now. The thing is I was treated promptly without waiting for years for an appointment. I was treated kindly and with respect. Suffice it to say that after years, ups and downs, I emerged and made a good life.*

Here’s a final surprise and a dreadful comment on how things have disimproved. 24 hr. support? While I never had to use it, I was repeatedly informed during those years that if my distress became unbearable, I was to go immediately to the main reception in St. Patricks Hospital and tell them that I was an outpatient.

What the Ombudsman describes scares me. What became of that clinic and that service?

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* https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/ombudsman-for-children-we-re-not-delivering-on-the-promises-we-ve-given-them-

1.3519985

** The head of the clinic was Prof. Norman Moore and I’m indebted to him and his staff.

I’ve been lazy and far too slow to write about the way in which automated systems are being designed to exclude citizen participation. As some of you may know, I was banned from FB for a period because of a particular comment I posted and I still cannot see how the comment could have caused any problem whatsoever.* I’ve failed to get an explanation from FB by way of their on-line reply forms. I discovered that they have a phone number in Dublin. I called and was met with the familiar, “Press 1 or 2 or 3 …” runaround. Selecting 1 produced a recording telling me that I was dealing with an on-line company and that I should use the on-line forms which I’d already found were ignored. OK, so many large organisations – including the HSE ** – take the view that dealing with citizens is done by way of mass media only. However, while the HSE press office will respond to a citizen, FB make it absolutely clear that they will talk only to accredited and “legitimate” journalists. If this interests you, from Ireland call 01 5530550 and select 3 to hear what for me is an extraordinary message.
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* https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/on-being-silenced-on-facebook-and-unable-to-discover-why/
** HSE is Ireland’s Health Services Executive.

I realise that Una Mulally’s piece in the Irish Times on Saturday (*) last was essentially about the lifestyles of young workers in successful, fashionable companies located in Dublin’s docklands but there is something odd about it which prompted me to return to doubts I have about the basis on which rests the view that Ireland needs to increase the numbers graduating in science and engineering.

While I fear that the level of general knowledge and basic expertise in maths, science and engineering is well short of what a competent citizen requires to participate fully today, I can’t seem to find data which compels support for the view that the third level educational system should increase significantly the number of specialist graduates. The conventional media view, fuelled by those who teach maths, science and engineering – especially I.T – is that students are foolish if they do not clamour for entry to these courses which more or less guarantee employment. This is at odds with anecdotal evidence which suggests at least some level of unemployment. The key to this puzzle may lie in the term “tech sector”.

Here’s what Una Mulally reports, “Apparently some kind of economic crisis is going on, but in Dublin’s tech sector, where Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal and Microsoft reign, the only way is up.” She then goes on to talk about skill shortages in Ireland which result in the immigration of bright young people from across Europe. However, here’s the interesting aspect: the only specific skill mentioned is languages and the only formal degree mentioned is a PhD in politics held by a young Italian woman who works in Dublin for PayPal.

With the possible exception of risk management (**) none of the jobs mentioned suggest that a degree in science or technology is a requirement; these people are working in marketing, customer support, business development and recruitment. However, they see themselves as working in the “tech sector”. It seems plausible to suggest that when journalists talk about career opportunities in the “tech sector”, they are not talking exclusively about technical jobs but about jobs traditionally filled by humanities and business graduates who now need a range of skills – well short of graduate level expertise – such as to make them employable not in a technological role but in office-type industries created by or fundamentally changed by I.T. generally and the net in particular. (***)

The almost cavalier use of the term “tech sector” may be contributing to woolly thinking about third level education in two distinct ways. (****) Firstly, there is risk that the requirement for science and engineering graduates becomes overstated. Secondly, there is a risk that the degree to which the office workplace has changed is not recognised and – language skills aside – this may be why the companies mentioned in the article need to search far and wide when recruiting graduates.
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* http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2013/0209/1224329821083.html

** The article doesn’t mention it but it is posibble that maths graduates are involved here.

*** I’ve written before about the changes wrought by technology and the skills which are now essentially a precondition for the employment of humanities graduates: https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/increased-emphasis-on-vocational-education-is-a-pretty-bad-idea-now/

**** The two are discussed here:https://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-smart-economy-and-technologys-democratic-vector/

Sometimes I can’t resist a smile when I hear wistful talk about the nuclear family and its importance to a good society. You see, when I first became aware of the term, it was applied not to a desirable way to rear children but to the polar opposite.

When I married and bought a house in the early seventies, I moved from an urban village to a suburban town. I was part of a movement which was discussed as a cause for concern. Growing up, my extended family lived within one postal district; everyone was a bus trip or even a walk away. Many other families were closer still, with grandparents, aunts and uncles in their immediate vicinity. By the 70s young people were moving to suburban housing estates built on expensive, rezoned lands, where everyone was of an age and income, and lived very similar lives, disconnected from routine daily family contacts. Public transport and other infrastructure had not been a condition when approving housing estates. Visiting became a chore and the better off kept up wider family contact by buying a car. Concerned debate focussed on the role of planning in pulling communities and the extended family apart, and reducing society to, yes, nuclear families. Perhaps if “atomic family” had become the term, subsequent debate would have been clearer.

I’m not offering this as an explanation for the recent English street violence. I’m setting it down now because some of the media comments reminded me. You see, the idea that different people and different age groups might not have a shared view of the police is hardly novel. Indeed it’s not an insight at all but it illustrates the need for policing that is close to impeccable. Here’s the story:

I was fortunate to have been reared in Inchicore. In my teens in the 60s we socialised in the city, or “town”, as we called it. Late at night we walked home (Dublin City centre to Inchicore isn’t a long walk but it takes time.) in groups, ate chips, talked into the early hours about music and putting the world to rights. Those walks are very happy memories to me.

There was, however, a problem. Not all of the groups on the streets at night were walking and talking. Some were involved in thuggery. We had to be careful to avoid certain gangs and to be prepared to run when necessary. One of the “gangs” to be given a wide berth was Gardaí who to us were normally antagonistic and occasionally violent. They certainly were a not a force that kept us safe on the streets at night.

Now, I guess they saw all groups on the street as potential trouble and they couldn’t tell the difference between one group on a street corner having a conversation and another group up to no good. However, we could tell the difference (I like to think I still can!) and they should have been able to tell the difference too. That is an essential skill for a police officer if the force is to enjoy popular support.

I stumbled upon an interesting piece a couple of days ago:

 IRISH HOUSING AND WAGES, 1977 to 2006: PORTRAIT OF A SCAM

Jun 8th, 2010 by Conor McCabe

http://dublinopinion.com/2010/06/08/irish-housing-and-wages-portrait-of-a-scam/

I knew that Irish house prices had become ludicrous in relation to salaries but I’d not seen data before. It seems a perfect illustration for page 1 of a basic economics text: that price is dictated by willingness/ability to pay.

A young person ambitious to launch out into life can be vulnerable to overcharging on housing. (I remember!) There was a time when such a person’s ambition/desperation was limited. In the early 70s the building society formula was that loans were for 75% of the house price and the loan amount was calculated thus: 2.5(Annual salary 1) + Annual salary 2.

Take two people on good incomes setting up home in the early 70s. Say, Salary 1 = 1.5K and Salary 2 = 1K. This gives: 2.5(1.5) + 1 = 4.75. That is to say, these two young people could borrow up to 4.75K as 75% of the house price. The house price then comes out at 6.3K. Guess what? In 1970-71 Gallagher’s were selling 3 bed semis in Lucan, Tallaght and Raheny for a tenner less than 5K.

Let’s try this calculation with Euro and today’s incomes. What would be good incomes for two young people today? Well, let’s assume that equality has made strides and that it is two young people on the same income. How about 35K each or a “household income” of 70k?

Here goes: 2.5(35) + 35 = 122.5. That would be a 122.5K mortgage as 75% of the house price. This would give a present day price of 163K for a 3 bed semi in the Dublin “commuter belt”.

I accept that these calculations ignore many variables. They’re rough! However, they indicate that an affordable 3 bed semi with gardens to which two Dublin residents on good incomes might aspire should be about 160K. The price today – AFTER all the reductions of the past year or so – is still in the 220 to 300k range.

The scam was worked by abandoning the 2.5(X) + Y formula and giving 100% + mortgages to people made desperate by incessant talk about the “property ladder”.