Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Cuts may halt Ballymun regeneration

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern TD (right) with Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael Feehan in the Ballymun CCTV control room

Work on reinventing one of the country's most notoriously disadvantaged areas may grind to a halt over spending cuts, it has emerged.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he could not reassure anyone that money would be available to complete the regeneration of Ballymun in north Dublin.

More than 800 million euro from the public purse has already been poured into pulling down the infamous flats, which became symbols of social deprivation and drug abuse, and rehousing residents in new developments.

Another 200 million euro is needed to complete the masterplan, including the demolition of 13 blocks of flats still standing.

Launching a massive CCTV surveillance system to combat crime in the area, Mr Ahern said he could not guarantee more funding will be available. "Obviously in more straitened economic times, something has got to give and we just have to prioritise issues," he said. "I can't give anyone any reassurance given the economic circumstances we find ourselves in."

Mr Ahern insisted it was incumbent on the nation to finish what it had started in Ballymun, saying it should be a priority, but he suggested it may take longer than expected. "If you don't finish it properly it defeats the purpose," he added.

The Department of Environment also cast doubt over plans to finish the regeneration by 2014. "We can't guarantee it at the moment because we have to see what comes out of the estimates process for the next three years," said a spokesman. "There's no cast-iron guarantees in relation to anything, everything is subject to the estimates process now."

More than 240 new homes are being built, with demolition of another three blocks of flats set to begin within weeks. Another three are to be pulled down in the new year with the remaining blocks - including the 15-storey Plunkett Tower, the last of seven high-rises immortalised in the U2 song Running To Stand Still - earmarked for demolition over the following three years.

Eamon Farrelly, of Ballymun Regeneration Limited, said he had been reassured by Department of Environment officials within the last three weeks that the money was there to complete the masterplan. "We have agreed a completion budget with the Department up to and including 2014," he said. Around 50 million euro was to be released to the company on an annual basis over the next four years.

Mr Ahern said the 82 individually-controlled CCTV cameras now trained on the streets of Ballymun as part of a regeneration strategy will help residents live without fear of crime.

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