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The Cost of Corruption


Frank at Internet Commentator was moved to respond to my earlier post about the manner in which West Dublin like other communities around the country were failed by the eighties. Frank takes issue with the causal relation between the corruption and the estates that were thrown up around the country. Perhaps I mis-represented my point slightly but I certainly do not hold that at the core, developers greed and action is sufficient to explain the outcome.

The role of the developer is explicit-to build and sell as many units as they possibly can. In that regards, land which is set aside for schooling, parks, amenities and community centres hurts the overall margin. It damages to profitability of the project and as a result is something the developer may not want. The only way to compensate for the lost land is to up the price of the remaining units, you are paying for services and the developer retains his profit.

Yet throughout the eighties there wasn't a great deal of money sloshing about the place. Not everybody could afford the added cost of better communities which had been future proofed against social decay. Since then the areas of deprivation have been precisely these areas of the country. There has not been the economic success there on the scale seen in other parts of Dublin and Ireland. The celtic tiger has passed by. There are many reasons for this but one must surely be the lack of coherent planning which would equip the large numbers of people moving into the estates to succeed in the future. No means of economic enhancement only insured that the lack of power to influence the market only continued.

While it may have been in the interest of individuals and communities to have provisions in place before the areas got flooded with cul-de-sacs and endless houses, they didnt have the purchasing power to effectively change the market. So they instead had to go with what was affordable in the short term. Here is where our other side of the coin comes in. Representatives of the public are elected to act in the public interest. At a local level the politicians are responsible for planning and development. What took place under the regimes of the eighties was a clear attempt to peddle influence and decisions for cash. The public representative had the power to place the onus on the developer to build amenities which future proof communties and prevent social disintegration.

A planners job is planning, their job is to expect hte huge population expansion that comes with cementing over most of West Dublin and to put in place plans and regulations which make this process as smooth as possible, not for the market but for the individuals who in ten or twenty years time will be living in the area with children and grandchildren. It goes without saying that in a high-density area the major issues will be crime and services. What was done (and as I mentioned earlier this is observation from the car window so do correct me if I am wrong) was that many thousands of houses were built which rested on a small central village to support community needs-the village was not reinforced or strengthed to cope with the demands of the exponential explosion in numbers.

The developer bought himself the rights to do as he wished with large tracts of the country. They did so becuase there was no other way to get things done. The cost of corruption is that it failed the communities of Ireland which elected officials to look after them. It goes on costing the state, the economy and most importantly the groups who live there.

When I argued that whatever was achieved in the areas around the country that were thrown up and then ring-fenced was done in spite of the political/developer class I did so with both parties culpable. Indeed if anything politics is more culpable. The developer has one agenda which we are all aware of. The politician is a person elected to counter the worst indulgences of developers desire for profit and think about the community needs.

Gavin's response to the market-emphasis of Franks post says it well "Did Korean people demand super fast broadband and then benefit from it, or did the government see the benefits in advance and force it on a market that did not see the potential positive future effects on the economy?" Similarly is it really the case that because those who moved into these areas didnt-or couldnt- demand amenities and services to be provided the fault lies elsewhere? I dont think so, we were failed by a political and developer class who walked all over the rights of the public. The politicians sold their public up the swanny. The developers built the boat.

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  1. Blogger Ciarán | 11:49 p.m. |  

    In Dún Laoghaire the recent rezoning of Sir Marc Cochrane’s lands at Shankill from agricultural to high density housing increased their value from €2m to €200m. The Kenny Report’s recommendations could have allowed the State to acquire those lands for €2.5m. Instead cash-strapped local authorities must go cap in hand to central government for funds to acquire lands for housing at open market prices...

    ...Just thought I'd throw that into the mix.

  2. Anonymous Frank McGahon | 10:03 a.m. |  


    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I only just noticed the post today. One thing I'd say is that I did sketch out the "market failure" argument for government intervention which would (theoretically) apply to "substandard" estates and indeed broadband provision. I do understand the argument though I'm not sure if these types of arguments do hold up very well to close examination but that can wait for another day - it's not something I'm prepared to die in the ditch over - my main point is that this is a separate argument to the argument over corruption and use of a term like "political developer class" fudges a lot of interesting problems together which makes it harder to come up with a decent way of adressing such problems.

    The bottom line is that the estates that got built reflected the planning ethos and desires of punters an awful lot more than it reflected corruption - many of the estates you think are bad had nothing to do with corrupt developers. At that time, planners and builders were hidebound and had a very limited conception of what housing could be like, money, as you say, was scarce. The notion that planners could simply mandate additional costly facilities is naive - they might get away with that now in boomtime, but back then additional costs might make the difference between the estate going ahead or not.

  3. Anonymous cymorg | 10:06 p.m. |  

    See Corruption in Ireland

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