Belfast Telegraph

Residents praised as estate opens

President Michael D Higgins has said he hopes lessons of doomed and delayed housing regeneration schemes have been learnt.

Opening part of the rebuilt St Michael's Estate in Inchicore, Dublin - now known as Thornton Heights - the President praised the tenacity of local women who helped keep the project on track.

The 16.9 million euro redevelopment is just two acres of a 14-acre site and is home to 10 houses and 65 apartments, a creche and community centre.

President Higgins said too many draft plans for the betterment of St Michael's Estate had been tabled since the late 1990s.

"Too many new starts have been announced. Too many times have St Michael's Estate's residents hopes been dashed, their work and efforts gone to waste," he said.

"There was a squandering of trust and of the hard-won relationships that had been forged over the years.

"The housing needs of the residents were left to the fortunes of speculative ventures. But that now is the past, from which - I hope - we have learned."

The new Thornton Heights homes form a secure, natural courtyard which contains three playgrounds for different age groups.

Photovoltaic solar panels have been installed on roofs to power lights in stores and common areas.

President Higgins was in the estate on a night in April 2003 when the final residents from three of the old St Michael's tower blocks moved out.

He said he wanted to salute the commitment and tenacity of the residents, tenants groups and local community associations above all else for pursuing authorities to complete the scheme.

The development, on the old Richmond British army barracks and subsequently Keogh Barracks, is named after Dr Brigid Lyons Thornton, a doctor and distinguished member of Cumann na mBan.

On her release from prison after the Easter Rising, Dr Thornton went on to work with Dublin's poor and led the fight against tuberculosis including as a pioneer of the BCG vaccination scheme in the 1950s.

The President said local women are to be praised for naming the estate in her honour.

"There are still too few streets, buildings and public amenities bearing the name of women in contemporary Ireland," he said.

Dublin City Council has been criticised by an international human rights body, Paris-based FIDH, over shelved plans dating back to 2008 to regenerate 12 large disadvantaged local authority estates in inner city locations involving more than 2,000 of its stock of 11,000 inner city flats.

Fatima Mansions was the only completed large-scale redevelopment.

Authorities in Limerick were also attacked over the slow pace of regeneration at the planned three billion euro scheme for troubled estates such as Moyross, Southill, St Mary's Park and Ballinacurra Weston. It states only 116 million euro has been spent while 76 new homes will be built this year.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke also attended the opening.

"Communities are the building blocks of our city and our society so I would especially like to thank the residents for their patience and co-operation during the building works," he said.

Finbarr Flood, chairman of St Michael's Estate Regeneration Board, said: "These 75 new homes bring stability and security to the residents.

"We should be proud of what has been achieved here in Inchicore. We wish every family who has moved in peace and happiness in their new home."

The remains of three former army buildings, all listed, still stand in St Michael's with one being the detention place for 1916 rebels before they were moved to nearby Kilmainham.

The regeneration of St Michael's began 12 years ago with construction starting in 2010.

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