The Lacey Report

– first in a series –

Recently NewsFour caught up with Cllr Dermot Lacey and talked to him about his vision for a better Dublin.

NF. Housing is probably the single biggest concern in the capital right now. Many are frustrated as to the slow progress in allocating Local Authority Housing. What, in your opinion, needs to be done to address this problem?

DL. I agree that Housing is the biggest concern in Dublin and have been saying for over a decade now. However talking about it does little to resolve the issue and I have been actively involved in delivering new housing to this area and to Dublin generally. From my first battle with the City Manager in my early years on the Council to retain housing stock in Ballsbridge (which we won) to working with Ruairi Quinn and Eoin Ryan on new housing projects in Ringsend, practical responses is what I have tried to do as a Public Representative. I went on to assist the delivery of new Dublin City Council housing, affordable housing and approved housing body in my own estate of Beech Hill in Donnybrook. As a member of the Docklands Council I successfully proposed the first 20% social and affordable housing legal requirement in the Country. I helped negotiate the commitment for 900 social and affordable housing units on the Poolbeg IGB site and am determined that this will be delivered.

However we need to do an awful lot more. We need to seriously overhaul the dysfunctional Department of Housing and Local Government and break their stranglehold on housing delivery. We need to make the allocation of Council properties simpler, and directly employ an enhanced Maintenance staff to speed up delivery and relax the stupid rules surrounding this imposed by the Department. On a higher level we need a State Construction Company that will build public housing on public lands and we need to broaden the definition and understanding of the term Public Housing. We need to develop the “living over the shop” concept, provide a better environment for renters and to have a major policy of developing student accommodation. Responding to the Housing crisis requires a jigsaw response. There is no one answer but all the parts of the jigsaw are required.

NF. Do you believe Local Government in this country needs to be radically reformed, and if so, how would you go about doing it?

DL. One of my favourite sayings is that “Ireland can be transformed by Local Government Reform.” A recent Council of Europe report has placed Ireland fourth from the bottom in terms of our system of Local Government. We are only beaten to last place by those paragons of democracy; Russia, Moldova and Hungary.

I have published a manifesto “A Fair City – One Dublin Many Dubliners” outlining a new and progressive way to govern our City and County. Essentially I am proposing a powerful Dublin Regional Assembly presided over by a directly elected Mayor with real powers over Housing, Traffic, Natural amenities and Community and Economic development. Independent finance raising powers are essential if we are to ensure that those elected to such an Assembly would have both the authority and the responsibility to do their job. I would see the new Assembly being funded through a corresponding reduction in the number of Councillors elected.

NF. Is crime getting out of hand in the city, what can be done to turn this around?

DL. As someone who was the victim of an unprovoked assault I know only too well that there is concern about the levels of crime. But we cannot let that defeat us. By and large Dublin is a safe place. People like to see more Gardai on the beat and I support that. To use the old Labour adage we need to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. I would put far more resources into the voluntary youth sector as a first step. Crack down on those carrying offensive weapons and drug dealing. Help those needing help and tough on those who prowl on the weak.

NF. The recently published Draft Transport Plan to make the city centre a low-traffic location has caused a bit of controversy. Do you think it will work?

DL. The new Draft plan is just that: a Draft. It sets out ambitious targets for Dublin but unfortunately does not set out the necessary funding plan. 

I agree with the approach of making the City a safer and more pedestrian and cycling friendly City. Like many people I am a pedestrian, a cyclist and a motorist. With change we need to bring people with it. That has been a big failure of the past.

At present there are over 60 bodies with some role in determining Dublin Transport policy. As a first step we need to streamline this and establish a single Dublin Transport Authority. However unlike the current National Transport Authority it needs to be democratic and accountable. I would encourage citizens to engage in the public consultation on the Plan.

NF. Do you support a directly elected mayor for Dublin?

DL. I have been campaigning for a directly elected Mayor for over twenty years. I have contributed to Public debates, publications  and news articles on the issue. Such a post should be introduced with evolving powers. To borrow Henry Kissinger’s question about who do you ring when you want to call Europe, I want to see an elected representative whom you can ring when you want to call Dublin. I would even be happy to answer that call.