Tuesday 4 March 2008

Neat rows of homes and one 15-storey eyesore

SHINY buildings on the right, a grim tower block on the left. Ballymun is a place of dramatic contrasts.

It is no longer the glib, graffiti-ridden northside 'hell hole' that became synonymous with drugs and crime in the 1980s.

Neither is it the utopian vision dreamt up by Ballymun Regeneration Ltd with Dublin City Council's blessing.

Modern buildings with walls of sheet glass and polished concrete greet the visitor on the main airport road to the new town of 'Ballyer'.

Rows of neat Scandinavian-style homes house families that had never enjoyed gardens or balconies.

But near them lies a hotchpotch of unfinished business. It is hard to ignore the single tower that remains of the 15-storey blocks that inspired the lyrics of U2's 'Bad'.

The only thing to distinguish the local shopping centre from a windowless warehouse is a large Tesco sign on the side of the building. At an entrance to the gaudy yellow 1970s-style eyesore, a bouncer wrestled with local kids with nothing to do yesterday.

To the passer-by, there is nothing obvious to indicate that the revamp has run far off course, although they might have wondered why the Joseph Plunkett tower still stands.

To residents, the fact that the euro notes spent on the revamp are stacking up as high as the old towers isn't news.

But they are divided in their views on Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. Politics are determined by whether you are 'pro' or 'against' the methods of the merchants of change.


Long-term resident Seamus Kelly claimed some families agreed to take tiny homes they were offered because they feared they might not get anything else.

He 'held out' and still lives on the 10th floor of the last 15-storey Joseph Plunkett Tower.

"I'm still waiting for a new home," he said.

Mick Sullivan, who has lived in the area for 22 years, was upbeat about the progress.

"I've very happy," said the dad, who works in the modern Axis community arts centre, opposite the remaining flats.

"I live in a two-bed duplex apartment with my son.

"I used to have a one-bedroom flat.

"You couldn't afford it elsewhere. It might be €500,000 in Foxrock."

Anne-Marie Walsh
Irish Independent


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