Tuesday, October 16, 2007

'Local Needs' Planning: Irish Government Prepares To Defend The Indefensible...

One of the basic premises of the EU is the freedom of movement for capital and people - EU members can't deny people from EU countries the right to buy property or live anywhere they want in any member state.

But this being Ireland various local agencies have designed regulations that favor 'locals' over 'outsiders' when it comes to securing planning permission for property developments or even in some cases being able to buy property in one of the few remaining 'Irish Speaking' areas of the country. According to the Irish Times:

State defends 'local needs' planning rules to avert EU action

Jamie Smyth in Brussels

Charlie McCreevy: Irish language rule "discriminatory"
Charlie McCreevy: Irish language rule "discriminatory"
Photograph: The Irish Times

The Government has told the EU that local planning regulations based on criteria such as a person's bloodline or ability to speak Irish are "well balanced and proportionate".

It has also argued that such "local needs" restrictions, which exist in 23 county development plans in the Republic, are necessary to maintain the rural fabric of society, achieve balanced regional development and reverse rural population decline.

This robust defence of local planning regulations is contained in a Government dossier sent to the European Commission this month in an attempt to stave off EU legal action. The dossier, which has been seen by The Irish Times , also highlights Ireland's "dynamic property market" as a reason why the restrictions do not breach rules that guarantee the freedom of establishment and the free movement of capital.

About half of the State's local authorities include "local needs" restrictions in their development plans. The move restricts planning permission and sometimes ownership of homes to those who can demonstrate a local need - either that they are working in the area or already live in the area in a home which is not their own.#


From an EU perspective current Irish planning regulations are indefensible. If they allow Ireland to get away with them they'll undermine the entire premise on which the EU is based, as well as opening the floodgates to rather more blatent racism elsewhere in Europe. After all, if the Irish rules are legal what's to stop French property developers only selling to French citizens who can prove family residency before France left Algeria, Germans not selling to Turks or even an Irish developer marketing a block of flats in London as 'Irish Only'?

Presumably the government knows this. So why are they wasting taxpayers money trying to defend this when they should be passing legislation to outlaw the practice? Blatant political cowardice perhaps?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ireland's contribution to racism in the US...

One thing which never ceases to annoy me is the holier-than-thou attitude the Irish media has to all things American. This Saturday the Irish Times let Kevin Stevens write an Irishman's Diary (subscription required) article on the awfulness of American Racism. The first seven-eighths of the article reads like a Wikipedia entry on the dire predicament of African Americans prior to the civil rights movements. But rather than mention civil rights and the radical realignments of race relations that continues to this day Stevens jumps straight into a description of racially segregated neighborhoods:

As William Faulkner so acutely observed, the South suffered from a pathology of racism that left an indelible stain on its culture. But state-sponsored racism was not confined to the southern states. De jure segregation was in effect throughout the US not long before the tumultuous years of the 1950s. African-Americans were barred from many federal government jobs until the second World War. A California law, still in force in the 1940s, authorised the segregation in public schools of children of Japanese, Chinese and South-east Asian ancestry. And the American armed forces remained segregated until 1948.

Moreover, de facto segregation in the US continues to be a problem into the 21st century. Housing patterns, economic factors and "white flight" from urban areas have created segregated neighbourhoods and, consequently, segregated schools. And though poverty is now the critical factor, poverty and race are intertwined. Poor school districts, predominantly black and Hispanic, have poorer schools - which are still segregated, still separate, and still unequal.

And there the article ends. No kidding. Let's not mention civil rights. Let's not mention MLK. Let's not mention anything about the changes that have happened since the 60's. And since Mr. Stevens has apparently been hiding under a rock for the last two years let's not mention anything about the Duke University Lacrosse Team saga, which shows that Race Relations in the US is no longer the black and white matter (sorry!) he thinks it is.

This is a classic example of the Anti-American bias shown by the Irish Media, who are remarkably short sighted when it comes to racism. Do you know why the Irish don't have an open problem with Racism? The real reason, not the nonsense about us being the land of a hundred thousand welcomes? I'll tell you why:

Ireland doesn't have a problem with Racism because we haven't got round to it yet. The people on this miserable rain swept rock have only just finished sweating the last drops of innocent victim's blood out of the medieval intra-Christian religious hatred that's been the driving dynamic here since the time of Henry VIII. The Irish have been much too busy fighting each other to fight the immigrants, who weren't a factor until about three years ago in any case.

Real racism is alive and well today in Ireland. There are now at least two locations in Ireland where planning laws openly discriminate against outsiders on the basis of language or being related to one of the people who live there already. More importantly, nobody seems to find it strange or odd. But what really takes the biscuit and drives me to write this entry was a puff piece in today's Irish Independent. I've highlighted the interesting bit:

Irish investors get first pick in Chicago

Sunday October 07 2007

The best émigré story for some years must be that of Sean Conlon, the Chicago property developer who left Kildare some years ago to find fame and fortune in the windy city and did precisely that.

In fact he is now one of the the largest property developers in the Chicago region. It's all quite depressing for types like me, who are still celebrating the fact that we managed to get to university. While we were busy discussing critical theory and Marx, Mr Conlon and others were a little busier making money. I'm not bitter. Honest.

Well, here comes an money-making opportunity for the cerebral types out there -- those who know too much about Finnegan's Wake and not enough about overseas investment. Castlroc Estates, an Irish overseas company, is offering those of us who missed the property boat a chance to jump on board with PURE2o in uptown Chicago.

First the prices. With one- beds up to 95sqm (1,020sq ft) going from €160,000, this investment is likely to appeal across the board. There is a deposit of only 5pc to be putdown on the signing of the contract and with a two and a half years build time, completion is expected mid 2010.

Here's the bit I like. The project is not being released in the US until January 2008, so the Irish at home have the pick of units. You may think that's not so important now but you try renting an apartment that is 100 feet underground with no windows -- you know what I mean at the back of the class.

Once PURE2o is launched in January you can expect a price increase almost immediately and when you calculate where this development is in Chicago this will come as little surprise. The view from the units of the lake and park is spectacular and the developments are just a street off Lakeshore drive itself.

Let me get this straight. On Saturday I read yet another lecture on how racist the Americans are. On Sunday I see a full page puff piece on how an Irish property developer is building an development in Chicago which American Citizens (be they white, black or polka-dotted) can't buy on the same terms as Irish people and will end up paying more for apartments that are "100 feet underground".

Do the good citizens of Chicago know about this apparently racist business plan? I suspect not. Because if they did at least one Irishman would be rapidly developing an intricate knowledge of just how seriously the Yanks take racism......