New Playground For Kilbarrack

After a long struggle, Kilbarrack finally has a new area for children to play in

After a protracted effort that began more than twenty years ago, there is finally a new children’s playground in Kilbarrack in front of the Kilbarrack All Weather pitch facing on to Greendale Road at the top of Thornville Road.

Satellite map showing the location of Kilbarrack's new playground as a red rectangle
Map showing the location of Kilbarrack’s new playground

A significant role in advocating for the playground was played by the Kilbarrack Coast Community Programme (KCCP), who are rightly proud and delighted with the result. After organising several meetings in the community around the issue of the playground, KCCP elected two representatives (Lenann Clarke and Stephen Hutton) who made a presentation to Dublin City councillors and officials, members of the Northern Area Committee.

On foot of this campaign, funding was allocated to the new playground and the process of planning went ahead.

It was still a massive task, however, to actually get the playground built.

And to make matters worse in 2016, KCCP lost a safe space for children’s play when a new fence was put up right outside their exit, creating a prison-like atmosphere.  In response, a fantastic video, produced and directed by Tiernan Williams called Kilbarrack’s Ode to Bansky was released in August 2016.

Later in 2016, Amy Fogarty launched an online petition that gathered 688 signatories and in October that year she was told:

In response to your query I can inform you that I am currently working on developing a playground analysis of the North Central Area for the purpose of identifying deficits in play facilities for this area. This is due to be presented at the next North Central Area Committee meeting. However, current records indicate that Kilbarrack has been identified as a deficit area according to Parks Strategy playground analysis. ‘Roseglen’ open space has been identified as a potential location for a new playground but as yet a delivery programme has to be identified following review of completed playground analysis for this area. I will get back to you with an update in the coming weeks. 

Unfortunately, this did not result in a prompt build and despite several positive announcements, the process dragged on until now.

Finally able to announce the new playground KCCP said:

Two Dublin City Councillors were particularly supportive of our campaign – Councillor John Lyons and Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha The playground may not be perfect and may need improvements but for a community that has been waiting for so long it is a great first step.

The work is nearing completion and KCCP have invited suggestions on necessary improvements: please email info@kccp.net or ring Marian 01-8324516

Council John Lyons was equally delighted.

 There is now a new playground in Kilbarrack. Happy to see that the community’s effort and persistence over a very long time has paid off!

Let’s hope that the kids in the area love it and use it as much as their hearts desire.

New Stardust Inquests for Victims of 1981 Fire

All the pain we’ve been put through, all the stuff we’ve gone through for the truth. This is what we fought for, campaigned for, and what we wanted.

This is how Selina McDermott greeted the news on 25 September that there will be a new inquest in to the Stardust fire. Selina’s sister Marcella (16) and her brothers, George (19) and William (22) died on the night of 14 February 1981 at the Valentine’s Day disco at the Stardust nightclub, Artane. In all, 48 people died that night with another 11 badly disfigured, 214 physically injured and hundreds, too, traumatised ever since.

Starting in a first-floor storeroom, a fire that night developed rapidly, in part because despite a lack of planning-permission, flammable materials were present in great quantity, including nearly 250kg of cooking oil in five drums. Although the Fire Brigade were alerted in minutes a blast of heat and the melting of ceiling material, followed by the lights going out created a catastrophic situation.

The Butterly Business Park, the site of the Stardust Fire of 1981

Most of the dead and injured came from Artane, Kilmore and greater Coolock, where the community has never ceased to suffer. Not only because of the pain of the losses, but also because of the way in which our political and legal system has failed us.

Independent Left Councillor John Lyons’ response to the announcement of the new inquests was to welcome it as hugely important but he added that this should never have taken so long.

The families of the victims and the survivors of the worst fire disaster in the history of the Irish state have been through hell and back many times over the last thirty eight years, from the initial political cover up by way of the Keane tribunal to years of political indifference, and the more recent con job that was the McCartan Report, which can only be described as a disgraceful insult, the families kept fighting, kept demanding answers as to how forty eight young people died in that building.

They have been vindicated by the decision of the Attorney General to open up new inquests into the forty eight deaths. But the survivors and the families and friends of the victims should not have had to wait nearly four decades to get the answers they deserve. If the fire had taken place in Blackrock rather than Artane, there is no way that people would be left waiting so long for justice. The working class communities of Coolock and Artane know this to be true as the treatment they have received from the Irish state, successive Fianna Fail and Fine Gael-Labour Party has been nothing short of a scandal.

The fact that the Keane tribunal of 1981 found that the fire was probably caused by arson – a finding that was always disputed and eventually ruled out – meant that the owners, the Butterly family not only escaped compensation claims and therefore proper accountability for their actions, which included the obstruction of fire exits, but they were awarded IR£580,000 in compensation.

The Stardust had been developed without planning permission and the fire authorities had denied Paddy Butterly permission to retain the club unless he installed another fire escape.

Although a 633-page was sent by the Gardai to the DPP, the only person to face charges arising from the tragedy was John Keegan, whose two daughters died that night, for confronting Paddy Butterly.

The Butterly family were – and probably still are – highly networked politically. In his memoirs, published just for family and friends but leaked, Paddy Butterly reveals that a former economic advisor to Labour Tanaiste Dick Spring worked for the family for two years. While he was Minister for Industry and Commerce, Fianna Fáil’s Kevin Boland had a chat over coffee with Paddy Butterly nearly every morning. “We were all Finna Failers”, reports Butterly, and adds that Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Jack Lynch asked Butterly to join Taca, their party fundraising group for wealthy businessmen.
‘‘What you had these people for,” explains Butterly, “was to help get things. I don’t mean by giving them money. But if you wanted to know something about your business or you wanted someone who could do something, you didn’t get the answers by writing into the papers. You asked these people.”

The injustice of the treatment of the Stardust families and their lack of access to political power in comparison to the situation of the Butterly’s explains why it has taken so long to obtain this inquest. And why it has been such an uphill struggle.

Independent Left’s Niamh McDonald paid tribute to those who never gave up the pursuit of justice:

I would like to congratulate the families on their sheer determination that got them this inquiry, without their hard work and persistence the establishment would have been very happy to see no justice being served. It is a disgrace that this government and successive governments have forced grieving families to fight for justice.

When, in 2006, Eamon Butterly, owner of the Stardust, opened The Silver Swan pub in the business park where the fire took place, protesters played the following Christy Moore song for ten weeks outside the bar, every night between six and eight pm.

They Never Came Home, was released in 1985 and was banned, with Christy Moore being found guilty of contempt of court for having written it. It remains a powerful statement on a terrible tragedy and a political system that has only contempt for working class communities.

They Never Came Home Lyrics

Christy Moore

St Valentine's day comes around once a year,
All our thought turn to love as the day it draws near,
When sweethearts and darlings, husbands and wives,
Pledge love and devotion for the rest of their lives.
As day turns to evening soon night-time does fall,
Young people preparing for the Valentine's Ball,
As the night rings with laughter some people still mourn
The 48 children who never came home.
Have we forgotten the suffering and pain
The survivors and victims of the fire in Artane,
The mothers and fathers forever to mourn
The 48 children who never came home.
Down to the Stardust they all made their way
The bouncers stood back as they lined up to pay
The records are spinning there's dancing as well
Just how the fire started sure no one can tell.
In a matter of seconds confusion did reign
The room was in darkness fire exits were chained
The firefighters wept for they could not hide,
Their anger and sorrow for those left inside.
Have we forgotten the suffering and pain
The survivors and victims of the fire in Artane,
The mothers and fathers forever to mourn
The 48 children who never came home.
All around the city the bad news it spread
There's a fire in the Stardust there's 48 dead
Hundreds of children are injured and maimed
And all just because the fire exits were chained.
Our leaders were shocked, grim statements were made
They she'd tears in the graveyard as the bodies were laid
The victims have waited in vain for 4 years
It seems like our leaders she'd crocodile tears.
Have we forgotten the suffering and pain
The survivors and victims of the fire in Artane,
The mothers and fathers forever to mourn
The 48 children who never came home.
Half a million was spent on solicitor's fees,
A fortune to the owner and his family
It's hard to believe not one penny came
To the working class people who suffered the pain.
Days turn to weeks and weeks turn to years
Our laws favour the rich or so it appears
A woman still waits for her lads to come home
Injustice breeds anger and that's what's been done.
Have we forgotten the suffering and pain
The survivors and victims of the fire in Artane,
The mothers and fathers forever to mourn
The 48 children who never came home.

Ireland’s Climate Strike 20 September 2019

Young people in Ireland played their part in the massive world-wide strike against Climate Change on 20 September 2019. The energy and determination as well as the frustration of the participants was evident in the chants and slogans on the placards.

Fair play to the anonymous students who posted on Reddit that they had to go against the principal to participate:

Obviously have to keep this anonymous so I wont say what school but today out school refused to let us out of school for a few hours to the protests for climate change
I think this is a joke like seriously. It was only from 12-3 like its ridiculous. The school didn’t even mention it to us at all that this was happening or suggested we take part in it ourselves.
Needless to say we weren’t taking this shit so we grouped together and about 80-100 students rushed out the doors and ran to protest anyways.

Here are some of the images and videos from the day.

Participants in Belfast for Climate Strike 20 September 2019
Dublin protesters turned out in huge numbers, here marching along the west side of Merrion Square (photo credit: Conor Healy)

View of the 20 September 2019 climate strike, from above, south side of Merrion Square, Dublin.

The Irish Times concentrated on very young protesters but nevertheless captured the sense of determination as well as anxiety among protesters in their coverage of the climate strike in Dublin 20 September.

Gathering for the 20 September climate strike, Galway.
Grand Parade Cork, 20 September 2019, another large turnout as part of Ireland’s support for the climate strike.
The famous ‘Free Derry’ wall, painted over to support the climate strike of 20 September 2019 (and a march on 21 September).

O’Devaney Gardens: Public Lands for Public Housing

Satellite view of O'Devaney Gardens, Dublin.
Dublin City Councillors are set to allow a development on O’Devaney Gardens that will fail people on low and middle incomes who need housing.

Dublin City Council officials and councillors from a range a political parties (Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein, Labour, Soc Dems, Greens and some Independents) are set to hand over a hugely valuable piece of public land, owned by the people of Dublin through the local authority, to a private developer.

O’Devaney Gardens is a 14 hectare site right next to the Phoenix Park, and if developed sensibly, could provide a huge number of social and affordable housing units on site. Independent Left Councillor John Lyons made his opposition to this plan clear.

Unfortunately, we have a set of city council officials wedded to a pro-market way of thinking, and a set of political parties unwilling to fight this neoliberal status quo.

Bartra Capital Property Group have been selected to develop the site: over 800 units will be built yet the developer will get to sell 50% of them on the open market at who knows what kind of outrageous prices; 30% will be social and 20% will be affordable purchase.

This is an outrageous give away of public land to a private developer.

We can and must do better.

Councillor’s get to vote on the proposed section 183 disposal of the land to the developer. Unfortunately, even parties who claim to represent the interests of working class communities are set to allow this plan to go ahead.

We must reject this and demand a better alternative which will involve Dublin City Council’s own architects design a plan for the site and a building contractor selected to build the units we want – high quality social and affordable units available to individuals, couples and families on middle and low incomes.

O’Devaney Gardens developer demands €7m: Councillor John Lyons refuses to be bullied

Ahead of the important Dublin City Council vote on Monday 7 October 2019, the head of housing for Dublin City Council, Brendan Kenny briefed the press that the developers, Bartra Capital, had demanded a €7m payment from the council. Kenny threatened that there would be a five-year delay should this not be granted by councillors and released figures that glossed over the extent to which Bartra capital were able to exploit the situation, namely by having 50% of the units for sale on the open market.

John Lyons, Independent Left councillor, made his opposition to this extra give-away clear:

I will not be threatened by the executive of the city council acting on behalf of a private developer, and so will be voting against the plan to hand over the O’Devaney Gardens site to a Bartra Capital.

We have, as Dublin City Councillors, an opportunity next Monday to stand up for the people of Dublin who are despairing at the lack of public and affordable housing in the city.

I will not support a plan that will see a private developer make massive profits from the privatization of public lands, and with such a paltry return for the council terms of social housing, as well as the complete absence of any kind of housing that could be reasonably be described as affordable.

We have a fight on our hands and so we must link up with all the campaign groups and others interested in creating a city that is accessible to all.

O’Devaney Gardens should be used to provide affordable public housing

The vote to privatise the public lands at O’Devaney Gardens was postponed until early November 2019

The main reason for the postponement seems to have been in order that the Minister for Housing can get involved on behalf of Bartra Capital. On 7 October 2019, the Minister for Housing repeated the threat made by a DCC official last week that if councillors refused to vote to gift a prime piece of public land to a private developer then nothing will happen on that site for at least half a decade.

Minister Eoghan Murphy says he wants to meet DCC councillors.

Councillor John Lyons made the following response:

To offer what exactly? I would say not much but a slightly tweaked outrageously bad deal.

So let’s use the next few weeks to build up the pressure on Fine Gael, DCC officials and the councillors currently in favour of this rotten deal.

Both Richard Barrett, the founder of Bartra Capital, and Eoghan Murphy TD share the idea that it is valid to build co-living apartment blocks. In other words, accommodation that is only a bedroom, with other facilities being shared.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy sitting on the right of RIchard Barrett, founder of Bartra Capital
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and RIchard Barrett, founder of Bartra Capital

Infamously, Murphy has described such accommodation as like living in ‘a trendy boutique hotel’. Everyone else calls it for what it is: a rat race designed by developers who want to maximise profits.

We should be designing beautiful public environments, like the one in Vienna highlighted here by Councillor John Lyons.

In April 2019 the Irish Sun used a freedom of information request to discover that the founder of Bartra Capital wrote to Eoghan Murphy in 2017 after his becoming Minister for Housing. Richard Barrett intended to avail of the ‘passports for cash’ scheme (officially, the Immigrant Investor Programme) but civil servants replied on behalf of Murphy that the meeting would be premature.

Over 3,800 children homeless is a scandal.

At the end of April the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government released its most recent homeless figures. During March 2019 there were over 3,800 children who were homeless and 2,445 adults. This represents a rise on the same period in 2018 and shows that Fine Gael’s promises (and those of their ‘independent’ allies) to make housing the test of the success of the government to have been merely shadow play.

Niamh McDonald, Independent Left candidate for Donaghmede LEA said:

The majority of those children are from one parent families, those parents are mainly women. These figures are not the entire picture, there are women and children in refuges, the hidden homeless, Direct Provision and many on the streets are not counted.
This is a generation suffering and becoming institutionalised due to no fault of their own.
This can be solved but we need to vote out those who refuse to fix the problem FG, FF & Labour.
Some seem to think if your local FF or FG Cllr gets the road fixed or gets your windows done you should vote them back in, this will not create change, everything will just stay the same.
Its up to the people to change it because the establishment currently elected won’t change as it benefits them to much.