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When residents of Constitution Hill were invited to a meeting last Thursday with Dublin City Council officials, Luas officials, and local politicians, many of them turned down the offer.
“We’ve engaged for two years in meetings with these people,” said Gillian Brien. “What we’re asking for isn’t pie-in-the-sky, we’re asking for a ten-foot steel fence to be taken off our children’s playground.”
That, or a new playground for the children who live in the complex.
It was a sign of how frustrated those who live in the flats were with Dublin City Council and those working on the construction of the nearby Luas Cross City tracks, which are passing through on their way from Stephen’s Green to Brooombridge.
Brien said that she and others had felt let down last week when the council’s area manager failed to turn up to talk to them.
By late yesterday evening, though, there were signs that all of the parties involved were close to being back on the same page.
A Long-Running Campaign
If you’ve missed the stand-off between residents of the housing complex and the council, the origins go back a while.
In late March, residents of the Constitution Hill flats in Phibsboro began to protest on the main road outside the complex against the Luas construction that is taking place on their doorstep.
With disruption from the Luas works and the flat complex in a state of disrepair, the residents felt abandoned by the city council.
As the construction grew closer to their homes, they grew more frustrated and made a few demands, some prompted by the works, others longer-running: they wanted a new playground for the kids and to make sure that during the construction, the entrances and exits to the building are safe.
In early April, Dublin City Council agreed to build a playground for the children, to replace the one that has been closed for 10 years. That seemed like progress, for a little while.
Residents also had a few other demands to try to mitigate just how much the Luas construction works have been affecting life in the complex, in some cases making it dangerous, says resident Gillian Brien.
They asked for the steel fencing at one of the entrances to the complex near Broadstone to be taken down. The residents say they were told the fence would be a temporary measure, in place until 27 April, says Brien.
And they wanted another, temporarily re-opened, entrance to the complex, this time on Catherine’s Lane, made more safe. Residents have asked the council to put up temporary markings and traffic lights and speed ramps so that it’s safe for those who live in or visit the flats as cars can only enter from this exit at present.
Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon says he was told four weeks ago the entrance would be closed off for three weeks.
“Four weeks later, there’s nothing happening,” Gannon said. “The health and safety authority were out there today [Tuesday] saying the entrance was a hazard.”
Last Wednesday, they felt they were getting nowhere after an aborted meeting with the council in which Brien and others thought they were supposed to get a budget for the new playground, and a start date, but didn’t.
(Dublin City Council’s press office told us that “the cost for this proposed development has not been identified yet as the project is only at consultation and design stage at this time”.)
So on Thursday, they went out again. “We were left with no option but to go back out and protest,” Brien said.
After a meeting yesterday evening, though, things looked a bit rosier.
It was a “good meeting”, said Dublin Central Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald, who attended.
“We have agreement on the playground,” she said. “We have assurances that it will be in place by June.”
McDonald said construction company John Sisk & Son and Luas officials have also agreed a process for dealing with residents’ concerns, which she hopes will start from tomorrow. “The job now is to hold people to their commitments,” she said.
Gillian Brien says she’s cautiously optimistic about the progress. Residents will “mobilise with a text” if commitments are broken, she said.