I wish to declare an interest in this matter as I am a director of Urban North Dublin Regeneration Limited which is the body pursuing the building of the Darndale-Belcamp village centre.
The Minister will be familiar with the history of the Darndale-Belcamp parish, which was built in 1974 and whose population of approximately 6,500 was effectively left without a commercial centre of any kind. It had not a chemist, post office, health centre, social welfare office or training or enterprise facilities. The result was a long history of transience and high unemployment which has been estimated by groups I worked with to have reached 70 per cent to 80 per cent.
Since 1987 there has been a determined effort by the Darndale-Belcamp community to fight back on behalf of their estate. Dublin Corporation began an extensive refurbishment programme around this time to normalise each house, in effect, and to get rid of troublespots at open spaces and laneways. Over the years heroic work has been done by the Darndale Tenants and Residents Association, the Darndale Resource Centre, the Darndale-Belcamp Initiative, the parish priests and teams and the local community, especially with the support of Dublin Corporation and FÁS.
Now the key piece in the jigsaw of the redevelopment of Darndale is before us, the Darndale-Belcamp village centre. This project was initiated by the community, which discovered the EU URBAN Programme and encouraged local representatives to pursue it at local, national and European level. The new centre was the subject of an architectural competition won by Duffy Mitchell and will have a new health centre, nursery and family centre, a community and training centre including an enterprise section and the Dublin Corporation regional office. We hope to have the new Dublin North Central Committee, which will represent 150,000 people, meeting there. There will also be a number of retail units, including a chemist and post office, as well as a number of accommodation units.
The Minister will know we have put a package worth £7.1 million together with strong support from the Eastern Health Board, which has committed almost £2 million, while Dublin Corporation has committed £1.5 million. I pay tribute to the Dublin Corporation officers, particularly the URBAN programme manager, Paul Clegg, and the Darndale regional manager, George Perry. FÁS, under local manager John O'Gorman, has committed nearly £750,000, while the Department of the Environment and Local Government, under the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, and the Minister for Finance, committed almost £750,000 to the project last year. Enterprise Ireland, through chief executive officer Dan Flinter, recently awarded the enterprise centre a grant of £564,000.
The bottom line is that to build and fit out this flagship for the EU URBAN Programme, which is being visited by our European colleagues, we need approximately £8 million and we have a shortfall of almost £1 million. Given next weeks' budget, I appeal to the Minister of State to ask the Ministers for the Environment and Local Government and Finance to ensure the full amount we need is in place, including £350,000 for fit-out. The Minister of State will be aware of a recent debate on the national development plan and the western area will get approximately £14,000 per person, while the eastern and southern area – the Ceann Comhairle's area – will only get £10,000 per head. It is incumbent on the Minister to ensure that highly deprived areas, especially in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, the urban centres, which may have unemployment rates of more than 60 per cent, receive major investment. I appreciate what the Ministers have done in the past and the great support of the agencies led by the local authority.
The date 7 December will be a happy day for the 7,000 people of Darndale Belcamp and the surrounding areas when the builders move on site to start this project, which is due to take 54 weeks, and make the village centre a reality. However, we are still short of a key element of funding. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the total funding package for the village centre is in place. The mistakes of the 1970s must be remedied once and for all and this proud and hard working community should be informed that the Government and the local authorities have done their duty by them.