Rezoning Dalkey for affordable housing? The natives are up in orms

Ross O’Carroll Kelly: Keeping social housing out is a Killiney hill they’re willing to die on

Sorcha calls the Emergency General Meeting of the Vico Road and Vico Road-Adjacent Residents' Association to order.

"I realise that there's a great deal of concern in this room," she goes – this room being our living room, by the way? – "but it would be helpful to me, as the chair, if we could hear from just one person at a time?"

Yeah, no, the meeting was called to discuss the threat to our special zero-zero zoning, which protects the unique heritage, character and – let's not kid ourselves – property values of the Killiney slash Dalkey area.

"There are certain people," our next door neighbour, Joy Felton, goes, "who, for their own amusement, would like to see our beautiful neighbourhood turned into some sort of Costa del Concrete."


"Joy is absolutely correct," Garvan Shotton, from Castiglione Terrace, goes. "Look at what's happening to Foxrock. They're throwing up aportment blocks everywhere. Andrea was driving through there the other day and she cried so hord she had to pull over the cor. Isn't that right, dorling?"

Joy goes, "I might as well say it – since it's what we're all thinking – but it won't be long before the words 'affordable housing' are being thrown around like rice at a wedding. And not just affordable housing, but social housing too."

There’s suddenly uproar again.

“Order!” Sorcha goes – and she ends up having to shout to be heard. There’s nothing quite like the sound of Killiney and Dalkey people when they’re – as they say around here – up in orms. “Order! Order!”

It’s, like, a good five minutes before silence returns to the room.

Well, I blame Matt Damon,' I wondered how long it would take for that poor focker's name to get thrown into the mix

“Let’s just try to keep our sense of perspective,” Sorcha goes. “No one is talking about social and affordable housing.”

Garvan's there, "Yes, they are. I saw one of these so-called councillors in the newspaper saying that if Shankill is taking 600 units of these – God, even the idea of it – social and affordable people, then why shouldn't Killiney?"

"Because," Liz Cannon goes, jumping to her feet, "Killiney is not Shankill!"

It certainly isn't. Shankill doesn't have a private security firm tasering and hog-tying day-trippers who outstay the legally permitted two hours, then dumping their bodies on the Glenageary roundabout.

“We should have signs made, saying that very thing,” Garvan goes. “This Is Not Shankill – despite the efforts of certain individuals, for purely mischievous reasons, to persuade the rest of the country that it is.”

Hugo Cannon is like, "I've long argued that we should lobby to have Killiney and Dalkey included on the UNESCO World Heritage list as an area of outstanding value to humanity – although obviously we'd like to see as little of that humanity as is necessary."

“Well,” Garvan goes, “I’ve always said it’s the people rather than the land that should be protected by international convention. As a group, bound together by social, economic and genetic ties, with a common culture and dialect that are uniquely ours, we have a right – which I think we’d all agree is manifest – to live on these lands and to do as we choose.”

Liz Cannon's there, "Well, I blame Matt Damon, " and – yeah, no – I wondered how long it would take for that poor focker's name to get thrown into the mix. "Since he spent time locked down here, we've had tens of thousands of people flocking here every week to – I think the phrase is – take in the scenery. Can't we put up some sort of security wall to keep these people out? Or an electric fence?"

"I said it at the time," Andrea Shotton goes. "This area is going to be turned into some sort of Beverly Hills, with people arriving in tour buses to stare at our homes and ask each other how many ordinary people could be accommodated on our land."

All of a sudden, Gwen Loscher – who's been silent up until now – goes, "Could I just play devil's advocate for a moment?"

And the silence that suddenly descends on the room is like the silence that descends on the Aviva as Johnny Sexton prepares to add the cigors and limoncello to a last-minute, score-levelling try.

"Devil's advocate?" Garvan goes. "What sort of talk is this?"

"I just want to make the point," she goes, "that there is a housing crisis in this country and here we are – what, a couple of hundred people? – sitting on this vast area of land that could provide homes for several thousand people."

To describe what follows as an uproar would be the understatement of the literally century?

“Withdraw that remork!” Garvan shouts over everyone else. “Withdraw that remork or I will ask the chair to censure you!”

“I won’t withdraw it!” Gwen fires back. “I have no intention of withdrawing it!”

Sorcha calls the meeting to order again. She goes, “Order! Order! Gwen, I think the mood in this room is volatile enough without us making inflammatory statements like that one.”

“What’s inflammatory about it?” Gwen goes. “You’ve said as much yourself in the Seanad.”

Sorcha's there, "Excuse me?" like she's been stopped at the door of Fitzwilliam and asked for her membership ID.

"I've heard you talk about the housing crisis," she goes, "and the generation of young people – good people, too – who'll never be able to afford a place of their own. You said we need to find innovative ways to solve the problem."

“But I didn’t mean-“

"What, you didn't mean let them live here?"

“Gwen,” she goes, smiling patronisingly and slowly shaking her head, like I’ve seen her do in debates when she’s struggling to come up with a response, “I just think that’s, like, oh my God…”

Then her voice sort of, like, trails off.

Gwen's there, "You're nothing more than a hypocrite, Sorcha Lalor! "

Again, there's, like, more uproar, people shouting the woman down and ordering her to withdraw the comment and reminding her that she's only a blow-in anyway – from Enniscorthy, of all places – and that her roots are showing and it's not for the first time.

Sorcha goes, “Gwen, we’ve known each other for a long time – which is why I’m giving you the opportunity to withdraw that last remork,” but I can tell from Sorcha’s face that the woman has touched a definite nerve.

“I won’t withdraw it,” Gwen goes, standing up and heading for the door. “Because I know I’m right. And deep down, Sorcha, so do you.”