Fianna Fáil Senator objects to housing development in Waterford Gaeltacht

Clifford-Lee says development would have ‘negative impact’ on Irish speakers in area

 Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee: said that while there was a need for more housing in the area, the proposed development did not match the needs of the local community. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee: said that while there was a need for more housing in the area, the proposed development did not match the needs of the local community. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, who is based in north Co Dublin, has defended a decision to object to a proposed 46-home development in a Co Waterford Gaeltacht area.

Shine Bright Ltd had applied for planning permission for a housing development at Mweelahorna, An Rinn, a small Gaeltacht community in Co Waterford.

Ms Clifford-Lee, a fluent Irish speaker, objected to the housing application as there was “no way to assess the language competency” of those who would move into the homes.

“We have no way of knowing whether these houses will be used as holiday homes or as primary living residences,” she said in a planning submission on August 10th.

Waterford City and County Council refused the application for planning permission last week.

Ms Clifford-Lee said although she was living in Dublin, she was part of the Gaeltacht na nDéise diaspora, as her grandparents and their young family left the area in the 1950s. “I have a special interest in the area and my family still have strong connections with the area,” her submission stated.

The size of the housing development would have a “negative impact” on the number of daily Irish speakers in the community, the Senator said.

Her submission stated that while there was a need for more housing in the area, the proposed development did not match the needs of the local community.

Affordable homes

Submissions from the developer said the housing project would be “a once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to provide affordable homes to those seeking accommodation in the Gaeltacht area, who currently had to move elsewhere.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms Clifford-Lee defended her objection, saying the development risked damaging the special cultural and linguistic features of the area.

“I never object to housing. I’m living in north Co Dublin, where there is a lot of development and I am very in favour of it,” she said.

The Waterford Gaeltacht had seen an increase in daily Irish speakers in the last census, because of the “really hard work” of the community. “Anything of this nature could throw off this delicate balancing act,” she said.

The Senator said she maintained a connection to the area, where some of her family still lived.

The council’s senior planner recommended the application be rejected, in part as its size would be “in excess” of housing needs of the Irish-speaking population, and as it would likely have “adverse effects” on the Gaeltacht area.

‘Disproportionate’ impact

The local authority’s Irish language officer had also advised the number of new homes would have a “disproportionate” impact on the vulnerable Gaeltacht.

Conor McGuinness, a Sinn Féin councillor in Waterford, also objected to the proposed housing development.

Additional information provided by the developer “didn’t allay concerns” about the impact of the new homes, he said.

Younger generations growing up in Irish-speaking areas often could not afford to rent or buy accommodation, and were being “forced out” of Gaeltacht areas as a result, Mr McGuinness said.

However, large housing developments sold on the private market would likely be outside of this cohort’s price range, and could be the “death knell” of vulnerable Irish language communities if approved, he said.