Ireland: Sinn Fein delivers windfall for developers

Local communities betrayed

Sinn Fein, the political wing of the ‘Republican Movement’ (Sinn Fein and the IRA), portrays itself as a radical, anti-Establishment alternative in Southern Ireland. This has helped the party to win scores of council seats across the country and also seats in the Dail, the Irish Parliament.

But the reality of Sinn Fein’s policies is very different. The leadership long ago ditched all pretence to socialist ideas and now embrace pro-capitalist policies. This was seen recently when Sinn Fein councillors in Fingal, in Dublin, voted to allow big business developers to exploit previously green belt land, despite popular opposition from the local communities.

Fingal Councillor Clare Daly, a member of the Socialist Party (CWI), and a prominent campaigner against big business development, reports.

Sinn Fein delivers windfall for developers

Last January, local communities in Swords, and in Dublin 15, celebrated the successful adoption of Socialist Party motions in their local council that secured a green belt zoning on hundreds of acres of land, which had been targeted for residential development.

Of all the Dublin councils, Fingal has experienced the most economic growth in recent years, with the majority of that concentrated in the above areas. Residents face daily gridlock, inadequate public transport, a schools’ crisis, and dearth of facilities. The failure of the government to implement the Kenny Report on the control of the price of building land has fuelled massive speculation and profiteering. This has led to the phenomenal price of housing, and failure to deliver the necessary infrastructure to support the scale of development has resulted in residents paying for this crisis.

At the end of May, the Development Plan changes had to be ratified by the Fingal’s councillors. With decisions making a difference of millions to developers and landowners, intense lobbying was needed to get some of the decisions overturned. The new ‘brown envelope’ of "community gain" was introduced, whereby the lack of schools and facilities were used by the developers to offer land for community purposes, in return for getting thousands of houses. This is simply a more sophisticated version of interference in the planning process.

But for the first time, last year’s local elections had broken the re-zoning alliance of the right-wing parties which had dominated Fingal since its inception. The Socialist Party, the Labour Party, the Greens and Sinn Fein, all of whom contested the elections on an anti-developer, pro-community platform, had a majority, and a real opportunity existed to secure proper planning that took account of infrastructure.

However in a disgusting move, Sinn Fein sided with Fianna Fail [the main party in the national coalition government] and Fine Gael [a right wing opposition party] to overturn the decision regarding 140 acres in Swords and restored the residential zonings. Sinn Fein’s Councillor did not participate in any of the discussions during the months of meetings on this plan and yet it was with that one Sinn Fein vote that all the campaigning of the community was betrayed.

In Barnhill, in Dublin 15 [an area of Dublin], it was the absence of Sinn Fein, and a U-turn by the Greens, which saw a similar green belt zoning overturned.

These parties claim to represent the interests of ‘ordinary’ people. But they have betrayed the communities which elected them and ensured that the developers are laughing all the way to the bank. And these parties claim to be the “radical alternative!”

This is an edited version of an article in the June 2005 issue of the Socialist, monthly paper of the Socialist Party in Ireland

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June 2005