Going is hard at Baldoyle racetrack

The Times We Lived In: Published, May 19th, 1993. Photograph by Frank Miller

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A mild protest. An unlovely lump of land. A grey day. Today’s news picture shows the blustery beginning of the infamous Baldoyle racecourse rezoning story. More of a saga, perhaps – and one which would (unlike the racecourse itself) run and run.

The rezoning plan for the coastal suburb, first proposed by the councillors pictured here – Liam Creaven of Fianna Fail, on the left in the foreground, and Michael Joe Cosgrave of Fine Gael – was first rejected, then accepted, by the council, which, eventually, would bring the decision to the attention of the Mahon Tribunal.

Our own 1993 report explains that Cllrs Creavan and Cosgrave, along with 18 other members of Dublin Co Council, “lurched slowly around Baldoyle in a hired bus, to see for themselves why 430 acres of green belt between Baldoyle and Portmarnock should or should not be turned into 900 houses and a golf course”.

Clearly unfazed by the demonstrators and their placards, the two councillors “strode off through the daisies and buttercups”.

When our photograph was taken, of course, nobody knew how the story would pan out. But the picture captures the essence of a battle which was, and still is, being fought in green fields all over Ireland. Ordinary folk speaking up for their local area in a dignified if somewhat haphazard fashion, versus . . . well, versus what? Big business? Badly needed housing? Uncontrolled urban sprawl and catastrophic biodiversity loss?

We should state, in the interests of impartiality, that the rather snazzy raincoats sported by Cllrs Creavan and Cosgrave were not paid for by the taxpayer. All it cost the State to organise this outing was 25 quid per councillor in expenses, plus their time, plus the hire of the 15-year-old bus.

We should also note that ordinary people are now living in the houses which were built on part of the racecourse, happy with their views of the sea – and that an enterprising group of community gardeners are growing beetroots and cabbages alongside the daisies and buttercups.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, ‘The Times We Lived In’, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99.

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