Diary August 1985 - Brendan Howlin and Brendan Corish, Ballymun flats
The Boys of Wexford
THERE WERE THIRTY eight members of the Wexxford Labour Party present at the first meeting after the local elections to discuss the upcoming Mayoral election. The usual congratulations were expressed and each of the three Corporation memmbers, Senator Brendan Howlin, Peter Roche and newcomer Helen Corish made short speeches. The meeting took place in the Corish Memorial Hall.
Then branch Chairman, Tommy 'Bardog ' Roche, told the meeting that they had been approached by Fianna Fail to make a 'deal'. Brenndan Howlin said that in his heart he was against such a proposal but that the matter should be carefully consiidered. He was followed by Brendan Corish - who would have no truck whatsoever with the idea. Corish was visibly moved. Pounding his fist into his hands on more than one occasion he said he would vote against. It was always Labour's policy in Wexford to go it alone he said. He reminded the mem bers of national agreements with Fianna Fail in the past which never worked out. He mentioned 1932 and the deal made with de Valera, He was obviously shaken by the mere suggestion of making a 'deal' with the old enemy.
Trade unionist Joe Thomas said that half a loaf was bettter than no loaf at all. He said he was in favour. Harry Keyes said this is terrible. The Labour Party never bowed to anyone in it's life.
Emotions were running very high. Many of the memmbers were simply overwhelmed by what was happening and weren't sure how to react. Even half way through the meeting no one really believed the motion would be carried.
Brendan Corish spoke again telling those attending the meeting that it was up to themselves. "I will not vote for it under any circumstannces," he said, but went on to say that, as always, he would abide by the party decision. Former Mayor Peter Roche said that if they didn't row in with Fianna Fail they would end up with the indeependent, and would have no voice. Helen Corish said she would accept the vote of the party. Brendan Howlin spoke again saying it galled him to join forces with Fianna Fail but under the circumstances it was the right thing to do.
Still no one really expected the vote to be carried. It had happened in other parts of the country. But Wexford, Corish country. Never.
After more than an hour and a half it was decided to take a vote. Some of the older guard just couldn't beelieve what was happening. It was very tense. When the votes were counted there was a tie - 18 for, 18 against. It was up to the Chairman.
The Bardog voted for and that was that. What Brendan Howlin called the best meetting the Wexford Labour Party has had in years was over bar some formalities.
All three Corporation members voted for. Brendan Corish voted against. Tommy Byrne, son of the former Mayor and stalwart of the party, abstained. Brendan Howlin was quick to point out that few parties would allow themselves to be subbjected to such scrutiny. Fianna Fail, he claimed, held no such meeting. A deal may have been struck but the needle remains.
Not surprisingly the reacction has been very strong. Many people feel it's the end Brendan Corish of Labour in Wexford. Others, mostly in Fianna Fail, are amazed that that party should have reacted in such a way particularly since they did so well. The argument goes that the initiative gained by winnning an extra seat on the Corporation and having three of the first five elected has been lost and that there will be repercussions.
As a result of the 'deal' the Mayoralty will alternate between both parties for the next five years. Gus Byrne, Fianna Fail, this year; Brenndan Howlin, Labour '86-'87, and so on. The arrangement suits Labour very nicely. Howwlin as Mayor during an elecction year could well give him a Dail seat. He was less than 500 votes behind Avril Doyle the last time when he was almost unknown outside of the town. The combination of Alderman, Mayor, Councilllor and Senator may well be enough to ensure success esspecially since Fine Gael's star is on the wane in Wexford. Fine Gael now has less than two quotas and even staunch party supporters acknowledge that Doyle's seat is up for grabs.
It's been a memorable election in Wexford. The lonngest continuous count in the country - 'till 6am: a return to party power in the Corrporation with only three independents elected as oppposed to five in '79 and a pact that even the most astute political observer could not have predicted. Time will tell what has really taken place in Wexford recently.
Ballymun Lifts Grounded
AT 8.15 ON THE NIGHT OF Sunday 26th May, thirteennyear-old Tony Phillips was playing with his friends in one of the six-storey blocks in Ballymun's Coultry Road. They pressed the button for a lift, and Tony fell into an empty lift shaft. He grabbed onto the ledge. His friend Mark Bradley tried to hold onto his arm, but failed. Tony fell down six storeys.
He suffered two crushed vertebrae and an injured leg.
There are seventy-three lifts in Ballymun between the seven tower blocks and the nineteen spine blocks. Dublin Corporation says that at the moment they are replacing the lifts at the rate of four a year, "providing finance is available." At that rate, it will take eighteen years to replace all the lifts. One lift, in the Joseph Plunkett tower, has been replaced.
There are two lifts in each fifteen-storey tower block, and three lifts in the eighttstorey spine blocks. There are two hundred and ten steps to the top of a fifteen-storey tower block, which has ninety flats. In one tower block, there are over 100 children aged sixteen or under.
The lifts in Ballymun are twenty years old. They rattle, creak and break down very often. A recent report by the Housing Department of Dubblin Corporation said "The figures for March 1984 show 312 reports of breakdown or some other malfunction in the lifts. This means that on average each lift in Ballymun has a problem more than once a week. Nine men are employed in Ballymun fullltime servicing the lifts."
The lifts are maintained not by Dublin Corporation, but by a private company called BBS Elevators, who were paid an estimated £400,000 last year to keep the lifts in good condition and repair them when they broke down. Last year, the Corporation made a provision of £125,000 in its estimates for additional repairs to lifts due to vandalism. They estiimate that it would cost over £1 million to replace all the lifts.
Peter McVerry , a social worker in the area, said, "They are very old lifts. They are very easily vandalised. There are a very large n urn ber of families with small chilldren living in the upper stooreys. There are elderly people living there too.
"The lifts are a constant source of irritation here. Their improvement is one of the major demands made by local people. Every tenants' group gets the urge to deemand and look for a better service."
John Harris, Project Leaader with the Ballymun Commmunity Project, the represenntative residents organisation for the area, says, "All the parts are broken down and exhausted. They need commplete re-furbishing.
"The lifts are fairly danngerous," he said. "It can take up to one and a half hours to get the Fire Brigade out to release you if you get stuck." They don't give the lifts a priority. Being caught in a space four feet square is a terrifying experience." The nearest fire station is in Finnglas, several miles away.
The Ballymun Community Project is now recognised by the Corporation as the reppresentative body for Ballyymun in negotiations to immprove the area. Last year, the Project put forward proposals for improving Ballymun, inncluding several regarding the lifts. They want all the lifts replaced, security doors and reception areas for each lift shaft, and the maintenance contract to be given to local community co-operatives.
The Corporation has no plans to change the contract. "There is no real decision to change the contract at the present time," said spokessman Declan McCullough. "The lifts will be improved on a staggered basis. This could take some time."
According to John Harris, there are improvements being made in the running of Ballyymun by the Corporation, and recently the Housing Departtment has begun a project in the Shangan area to start to make changes in the adminisstration of the area. The prooject is aiming to decentralise services and maintain close liaison with representatives of tenants in Shangan. If this project works, it will be exxtended to the whole area of Ballymun.
A special sub-committee on Ballyrnun was set up in Dublin City Council made up of elected local represen taarives of the area. John Harris is sceptical of the value of the committee. They issued a report, he said, but did not consult any local residents about it.
"We did not find the .pecial committee any great help," he said. "We go ound the politicians and go aight to the Corporation.
For far too long the political ies have manipulated Ballymun."
When work was begun on Ballyrnun twenty years ago, was visualised as "semi-skyserapers rising out of the green fields around the little townland," and was welcomed as a solution to Dublin 's acute housing shortage at the time.
It was originally planned to house twelve thousand people. Today the population is conservatively estimated at 20,000. Local organisations say it is nearer to 32,000. Neil Blaney, then Fianna Fail Minister for Local Governnment, said when it was forrmally inaugurated, that it "would become a model for ourselves and other counntries. "
John Harris says "For the first ten years here it was fairly good. Then things starrted to deteriorate rapidly. Ballymun developed into a transit camp, rather than perrmanent accommodation for people. There was a lack of representation from the commmunity, and it was not feassible for any government body to put money into it. There was no success with any money put in."
Aileen 0 'Meara
Beyond The Pale
"IF I WAS GIVEN A PREEsent of a house in Carlow, I don't think I would take it and I certainly would not take a business." So stated District Justice Mahon at Carlow Court, The Nationalist reports.
He made these remarks after hearing evidence of the vandalising of the local St Joseph's Boys' School. Adddressing two youths who were before him charged with entering the school, causing over £7,000 worth of damage, he said "This is possibly the worst piece of outright vanndalism I have heard of since I came on the bench. Animals wouldn't do it," he said, adding that he is now going to clear Carlow of "each and everyone of you blackkguards."
Giving one of the youths a twelve-months suspended sentence Justice Mahon told him he had "all the appearrances of a pup, but not only that you are a dangerous pup.
"Of all the accused that have stood before me you stand the least chance of any if you ever come before me again," said the Justice.
A call for the establishhment of a press council by Fianna Fail Shadow Minister of Communications Terry Leyden TD is reported in the Roscommon Herald.
Speaking on a motion of sympathy on the tragic death of Fr Niall Molloy at a Roscommon County Council meeting, Councillor Leyden stated a press council was needed to provide "an avenue" whereby members of the pubblic could express their abhorrrence of unfair practices on the part of the national media.
Councillor Leyden, who resides in Castlecoote where the late Fr Molloy had been curate, stated: "The people of my parish are appalled at the insensitive treatment in the national media of the untimely death of such a great priest. It is sad that the media have dealt with his death by innuendo. There has been so much suffering innvolved it's unforgivable." A press council should be estabblished in this country, he said, as an avenue whereby the people could express their abhorrence at the abuse of such a powerful priest.
The difference between a row and a scuffle was exxplained to Justice Keenan Johnson at Kilkenny Court by a seventeen-year-old who was charged with assault. The case was reported in the Kilkenny People.
"In a row you kick and beat up someone. In a scuffle you might just push someone," the defendant declared.
Before the court were Brian & Malone and Michael Walsh. They were charged with assaulting each other and being drunk and disorderly, The defending solicitor said that both men were friends and had just bumped into each other. Malone told the court that they didn't have a row; they just had a scuffle.
Adjourning all charges unntil Septem ber Justice Keenan Johnson said that drink was the" root cause of the incident in question.
"The wine went in and the wit went out," he added.
Fine Gael senator Jackie Daly has objected strongly to suggestions of a waterrgate in Kerry made at a County Council meeting in a controversial debate on his family business in Killarney according to The Kerryman.
The issue was raised by Fianna Fail Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae who demanded to know who had instructed that the roadway in front of Killarney Autos on the Park Road be changed and how much money had changed hands between Mr Daly and the Council.
Councillor Healy-Rae said there was considerable dissquiet about the transaction whereby Mr Daly gave the Council a piece of land so small "you couldn't put five hatching hens on it," in return for the old road.
Law agent Timmy Murphy told the meeting that to suggest anything underhand had gone on was "quite abbsurd".
He said that notices had been published in the papers of a public inquiry. Counncillor Healy-Rae could have attended but did not. In reply Councillor Healy-Rae said that as a public represenntative he should have been invited to the inquiry. Adddressing the law agent he said "How do you know I get any papers. I am from the bogs."
In a statement issued after the meeting, Senator Daly said he totally denied any suggestion of "an unhealthy relationship between his poliitical career and his role as chairman of Killarney Autos."