Give empty houses to diaspora, says TD


HOUSES ON ghost estates could be given to Irish emigrants seeking to return to their home counties or even to religious fundamentalists, Labour TD and presidential aspirant Michael D Higgins has proposed.

Speaking in Westport yesterday at the annual conference of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), the former arts minister said many of the ghost estates were in areas that experienced high levels of emigration, such as Co Leitrim.

“Some years ago, we discovered the diaspora. Some of our emigrants living in England, for example, are retired and can’t afford to come back. We should give them all these empty houses and let them look after them for three or four months at a time.”

Mr Higgins blamed a “desperate illusion of market rationality” combined with a “deep anti-intellectualism and hubris defined by personal consumption” for Ireland’s boom-to-bust cycle.

Dublin City Council’s chief planning officer, Dick Gleeson, complained that “the people who say ‘no’ have had too much influence” in blocking progress, and he emphasised that sustainability “rooted in good governance” was at the heart of the new city plan.

Bert van Meggelen, a Rotterdam-based sociologist and critic, said quality could not be achieved “if urban planning is completely market driven”. Ireland was “building like hell” during the boom “and when that happens, nothing goes the right way”, he added.