It must be election time. Our public representatives are all scrambling to issue the usual specious promises about schools, roads and manna from heaven. And all in spite of, or contrary to, the actual wishes of those the purport to serve.
Our neighbourhood – Firhouse in South Dublin – doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s got poor public transport links, no true village centre to speak of and our only local restaurants comprise of four greasy chippers.
But what it does have is an abundance of lush, verdant green space and a glorious, uninterrupted view of the Dublin mountains.
But what is that against the march of inexorable progress? There’s an election to be won.
Directly behind our estate lies an expansive parkland, with wild hedgerows and a venerable 200 year old oak tree.
The space is used daily by local residents, dog walkers, strollers, children and a nearby football club.
However, South Dublin County Council recently voted to allow the construction of two temporary school buildings on the green space (which is currently Zoned F as a natural amenity and parkland). The schools – a Gaelschoil and Educate Together facility, have taken a large bite out of the parkland, however much of it has been left intact. For now.
This month the Council are poised to take another vote to demolish the only just constructed schools and replace them with two storey edifices and a large enclosed sports pitch which will take up the majority of the remaining public greenspace.
There are already three primary schools located in Firhouse, all of which have spare capacity for more students. As Firhouse is a mature area, most of the local children are now attending secondary school or college. There is simply no need for two further primary schools in the area. To the point that most of the pupils expected to attend the schools will be ferried in from outside the catchment area.
So why build the schools in Firhouse, on a stretch of land explicitly not zoned for this purpose? Why, because there’s an election coming, and schools are vote winners – especially such right on establishments as a Gaelschoil and an Educate Together jamboree.
What’s most galling is the hypocrisy of our local political figures – only recently Sinn Fein Councillor Cathal King, admonished that “there will be no green spaces left in places like Firhouse, Tallaght or Clondalkin” and yet Sinn Fein are backing the development. Likewise, Green Party Councillor Francis Noel Duffy, who could be reasonably expected to oppose the destruction of public parkland, publicly announced his support of the proposal for the erection of the permanent structures.
Local Resident Associations, Sports Clubs and private individuals have vociferously voiced their opposition to the development but their objections appear to be falling on the deaf ears of politicians with an election clearly in their sights.
It’s a travesty that the desires of local residents are being callously disregarded and the development of schools that are wholly unnecessary and unwanted is being railroaded through in the name of electioneering.
And therein lies the rub. Since the redrawing of the local electoral boundaries in 2014, and the merging of Firhouse and Tallaght into an unwieldy electoral union with Terenure, Templeogue and Rathfarnham, the 8,000 or so residents of Firhouse simply don’t carry enough weight to matter to local politicians.
And so we are faced with the prospect of everything that makes Firhouse unique slowly being sacrificed for short term political avariciousness. And we, the local residents, will have to live with the consequences for many years to come.
In the meantime our stalwart oak tree stands in solitary silence waiting to be overwhelmed by the remorseless tide of progress.