Minister of State Catherine Byrne has been snubbed by Dublin city councillors who refused to attend a meeting with her over housing plans for St Michael's Estate, Inchicore.
Ms Byrne, Minister of State at the Department of Health, had asked councillors to come to Leinster House on Wednesday ahead of a council meeting the following day on plans to develop cost-rental and social housing in Inchicore.
Ms Byrne has clashed with Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy over his plans to designate the former St Michael's Estate flat complex for the State's first not-for-profit rental scheme, where the levels of rent would reflect the cost of providing the accommodation.
His plans for the site would see the construction of about 470 homes, 30 of which would be used for social housing with 60 per cent available on a cost rental basis – for rent to low- and middle-income workers, earning up to €50,000 or €75,000 as a couple, at 15-25 per cent below market rates. A further 10 per cent may be affordable purchase homes, or could also be used for cost rental, depending on market interest.
Ms Byrne said she wanted to outline her concerns to councillors, who are member of the housing committee, ahead of their meeting on Thursday but they “declined my request” to attend.
“My main concern is the over-development of the site and the density of the site.” She said she was not against cost rental in general, but said St Michael’s Estate was the wrong site to be used as a testing ground for the project.
“If they want to do a pilot programme, do it in another area but don’t just plonk it all in one area,” she said. “ Let another community have it . . . it’s not what we want in Inchicore.”
Local people wanted affordable housing to buy, she said, cost rental was “a form of social housing, nobody can buy it”.
In relation to her conflict with Mr Murphy, she said: “I have never failed in any attempt to support my party, but I am first and foremost a TD representing Dublin south central and a resident of Inchicore.”
Sinn Féin councillor and chairman of the council’s housing committee, Daithí Doolan, said it was unfortunate Ms Byrne “has decided to lead a charge” against the development. “That Minister will not be getting any preference treatment from the housing [committee].”
Fine Gael councillor Ray McAdam said he “wholeheartedly” supported the project. “I have a lot of respect for Minister for State Catherine Byrne, but I believe she’s wrong on this.”
Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan said Ms Byrne was "whipping up fear" in the local community around the project.
“It is really dangerous, and disappointing, that somebody who holds the office of junior minister is running a nimby campaign based on housing, much needed housing, going into her area.”
The council's head of housing, Brendan Kenny, said consultation with the local community would begin before the end of September.
St Michael’s Estate was one of five sites to be redeveloped with social and private housing under a public-private partnership (PPP) deal between the council and Bernard McNamara, which collapsed in 2008.