From Socialist Voice, November 2005

Cycles of history

In 1935, poverty was endemic in the Irish Free State. Under Maternity and Child Welfare Schemes that had been set up by the Department of Local Government and Public Health, several county and city councils set up programmes “to help destitute expectant and nursing mothers.”
    In Dublin the programme consisted of three clinics which were set up in the city. At these clinics the pregnant women were invited to attend antenatal programmes for a period of three months. Each woman who registered received one meal each day. The food was cooked, and served, by the Welfare Department of the St John Ambulance Brigade. In addition, the mothers were allowed to take a jug of soup home to their families. The Department of Local Government and Public Health was very proud of this programme.
    Seventy years later, amidst unprecedented wealth, a report in the Irish Times informed readers that a new extension was being opened at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin. This centre feeds 350 destitute adults and children daily. The report went on to explain that the new extension included an area for women and children. The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who launched the new biography of James Connolly a few weeks earlier while wearing his self-declared republican-socialist overcoat, once again donned the garment to open this new extension. Apparently the government had donated €500,000 to match a charitable donation that had been made by an anonymous donor.
    We should not have to rely on charity to look after the most needy members of our community. Somebody has indeed lost the plot.

And on the subject of “plots” . . .

On 21 September 2005 the Kildare Times published an article based on an interview with Councillor Catherine Murphy. The article is titled “Government sanctioned estate management companies the new absentee landlords.” This article makes it clear that many councils have found a way of abdicating responsibility for the unprecedented number of new housing developments throughout the country.
    Apparently, in County Kildare “management companies are part of the planning conditions where apartments comprise a portion or all of a development.” The article informed us that this was now common practice for developments of houses only. Effectively the developer retains ownership of the housing estate’s green spaces, and can at any time change the use of these spaces.
    The article pointed out that people are buying houses in schemes where the land outside their little plot remains the property of the developer, who in turn imposes unregulated charges on households for management of the estate.
    Many young people currently buying homes are unaware that this is an integral aspect of the contract, and that they can face ever-increasing management charges without any apparent control or transparency.
    The recent information, which indicates that most developers avoid the payment of taxes, has more than a reverberation of the absentee landlords of the nineteenth century. Now we have our new home-grown landlords, who show they are every bit as ruthless as those criticised by historians and political commentators over the last hundred years.


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