Friday, 7 December 2007

Proper planning needed to guard against 'white flight'

NEW GUIDELINES at local authority level, to provide for sustainable housing development that will prevent the creation of ghettoes and social segregation, have been called for by Deputy Denis Naughten.

Speaking to the Roscommon Herald Deputy Naughten expressed his concern that unless the necessary measures were taken we could see the proliferation of ghettoes and greater social segregation within our communities.

His comments follow the recent school controversy in Dublin, which prompted the Department of Education to provide an emergency school in Balbriggan to accommodate a population of immigrant children, who had been turned away from everywhere else. There has also been evidence of Irish families moving out of neighbourhoods and out of schools where immigrants have settled in large numbers - a phenomenon referred to as 'white flight'.

"It {white flight) is a significant issue now right across the country in areas where there has been rapid housing development. Where you have a more sustained progressive level of housing development it doesn't seem to be as big an issue. But around the likes of Athlone where you have had rapid housing development in a very short number of years this issue seems to arise," Deputy Naughten said.

"The one concern that I would have with what is happening is that you will end up creating ghettoes where people will be able to function without integrating into the local community," he added.

While Deputy Naughten has come across a "couple of cases" of 'white flight' in the Athlone area, he said he was not overly concerned that it was a problem at this stage.

"I have seen a small amount of it but it's not something that I would be concerned about at this particular stage. There has been a small amount of it happening, but if we can get our act together, we can address it before it becomes a problem in this part of the country," he told the Roscommon Herald.

"It is now a very significant problem in certain parts of Dublin. It isn't a problem to any great extent yet in our own local area. But unless the proper procedures are put in place and put in place quickly then it will turn into a problem," he said.

Deputy Naughten, who is Fine Gael's Immigration & Integration, spokesman raised the matter with the Environment Minister John Gormley in the Dail in recent weeks. In response the Environment Minister replied that the government had already taken action and that there was no need to be alarmist about the issue, as good integration had taken place.

Deputy Naughten, however, feels that guidelines encouraging more sustainable housing development were necessary to curb the current trend: "If guidelines come down from the Department of Environment to each local authority 1 think we will be lucky enough to nip this in the bud".

Deputy Naughten also stressed that education had a key role to play in integration both for children and for adults in the workforce and he stressed the need for VECs and employers to come on board and provide language supports for adults.

He said that the issue of enrolment policies in national schools did not present a problem in the South Roscommon area but that some issues were evident elsewhere in the county. "There are problems with children not being taken into schools, not in South Roscommon, but in some parts of the county 1 know that there are children not being taken in schools because of the increase in the non national community," he said.

"In relation to the controversy in Dublin, that hasn't arisen here. In all of the local schools in South Roscommon and throughout the county where there is an immigrant population, there is a pretty good mix in all of those schools. But capacity is becoming an issue," he said.

Deputy Naughten added that work was in progress to acquire additional lands to provide for extensions at a number of national schools in high growth areas such as Bealnamullia and Summerhill.

"The issue that has been suggested in other parts of the country that children are being discriminated on religion thai hasn't happened here," he stressed.

"I'm satisfied with the enrolment policies that are in place locally. They are very fair and they give equal opportunity to people from all communities. The reality is that each school should prioritise children from within their catchment area," he added.

He said that inadequate funding for language support services in schools was of significant concern and that where newcomer children with little English started school midstream it placed even greater pressures on teaching resources.

Roscommon Herald

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