I welcome the Labour Party motion. Since the announcement in May that five public private partnership projects — including St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore, where I live — were not going ahead because the developer, Bernard McNamara, was pulling out, there has been much confusion, disappointment, and anger in our local community. However, I do not intend to criticise PPPs, because such projects have been effective in many parts of our city where regeneration was badly needed. People were drawn to PPPs because they offered the possibility of new and improved facilities and services in areas in which they otherwise would not have materialised. These facilities include libraries, health centres, homework clubs, youth cafés and so on.
Examples in my area of successful PPP projects include the regeneration of Fatima Mansions and St. Teresa's Gardens. I have been a member of the regeneration board for both of these projects for several years, as well as for St. Michael's Estate. The Fatima Mansions regeneration project, which is beginning to wind down, has been a great success because it allowed people from the community, residents' associations and public representatives to have a say in the future of their area. Fatima Mansions, a housing complex owned by Dublin City Council, had failed for many years to offer an acceptable standard of living to residents. Now they have access to a range of new facilities. The St. Teresa's Gardens regeneration board is in the process of completing its plans for the PPP regeneration project. I spoke to residents yesterday who informed me they that they are pleased with the process thus far and hope it will continue.
However, this week's announcement by Dublin City Council that the developer, Bernard McNamara, will no longer proceed with the PPP for the regeneration of St. Michael's Estate is extremely disappointing, especially in light of the amount of time and effort which has gone into this project in the past ten years on the part of residents, community workers and city council officials. This is undoubtedly a major setback but we cannot allow ourselves to get caught up in the blame game. Our priority now must be to save the project and to ensure another developer is brought on board so that the regeneration of St. Michael's Estate is finally made a reality.
The cost of the failure of this project is not merely financial. The residents of St. Michael’s Estate and the wider community of Inchicore are the ones who will suffer if this project does not go ahead. I have lived and worked in the area all my life and have made many friends there over the years. The proposed redevelopment was promised for many years. Unfortunately, many of my friends have moved out of the estate. It is important that we take up the banner in support of the residents who want to make better lives for their families.
The community spirit in St. Michael's is something to which we should all aspire. The residents have worked tirelessly, in spite of poor living conditions and serious social problems, to keep the idea of regeneration alive. After many long nights and countless meetings with the developer, they finally agreed a plan they were confident would greatly enhance their community. They were promised new homes, health facilities and sport and recreational amenities. Now they are faced with the prospect of losing it all.
Regeneration is not just about bricks and mortar, although it is often our main focus. Regeneration is about communities working together to improve the fabric of the area in which they live. It is about better housing standards, improved education and health services and building a strong social agenda. Regeneration should not be about profit for the developer or countless launches of glossy documents. We should always bear in mind that it is, first and foremost, about people.
Since the regeneration of St. Michael's Estate was first given the green light, the hopes and dreams of the area were a topic of conversation throughout Inchicore. Now that the future of the entire project is in danger, disbelief, disappointment and anger have become the new topics of conversation. The residents are justified in feeling they have been abandoned. Commitments made by the Government, the local authority and the developer have been withdrawn.
In the current uncertain economic climate, where we are faced with wide-ranging cutbacks, it will undoubtedly prove difficult to get a new developer to come on board and pour millions into the project. However, we must push forward and ensure the regeneration of St. Michael's Estate is given the full support of the Government and Dublin City Council and that they deliver on their promises to the people of Inchicore. The Government is continually talking about helping those most in need and supporting and protecting the disadvantaged. However, these are the very people who did not benefit from the last ten years of economic prosperity, just as it is they who will be first to suffer in the current economic downturn. The weak and vulnerable in our society deserve the same level of commitment from the Government as everybody else, in good times and in bad.
How can the Government simply look on as thousands of people on Dublin City Council's affordable housing list are told there is now a freeze on housing allocations? How can the Government commit to sorting out the housing problem for young couples and those on lower incomes only to press the pause button on the entire system? With more than 8,000 people currently on the housing list in Dublin and thousands more applications not even processed, the housing situation is in crisis.
Those people who remain in the final 17 units in St. Michael's Estate have been left with no guarantee that they will get the new homes they were promised. It is time for the Government to step up and fulfil the commitment that was made 18 years ago. The residents, the wider community and everyone who has worked hard on this project have waited long enough. The Government must take responsibility for this situation and give a guarantee that the regeneration of St. Michael's Estate will continue as planned and be brought to a successful conclusion. This community must be allowed a new beginning, with opportunities for employment and an effective health service. It is a community which has struggled and worked hard. Above all, the residents have been committed to each other for the past 18 years. I ask the Government to take urgent action to bring this development further. People must not have to wait another ten years for a decision to be made.