Real story behind housing site

MICHAEL CLIFFORD’S article (May 30) on Balgaddy contains a number of references to my father, Tom Gilmartin, which are mistaken.

In particular, Mr Clifford gives the impression that the designated town centre site there, as laid down in the Myles Wright plan, was not developed because my father had taken an interest in the Quarryvale site nearby. This is simply untrue.

The Balgaddy site had lain undeveloped for many years before my father arrived, and had been thrown up as being incapable of development by previous owners of the option on it. Albert Gubay, not Owen O’Callaghan, held the option on the site when my father became involved, and he, too, realised it was not capable of development. It is a widely-acknowledged fact that the site was too small and poorly accessible for a viable town centre to be developed on it.

A narrative has become dominant in recent years in which the Balgaddy town centre, and the Myles Wright plan which proposed it, has been held up as an example of good planning centred around what Mr Clifford calls a “thriving community under the best planning guidelines”. This narrative is false — the plan was an unworkable failure from the moment it was conceived. It was not a case of Quarryvale versus Balgaddy, it was Quarryvale versus nothing. A large majority of local people, contrary to myth, were fully supportive of my father’s plans at the time, realising the failure of the 1973 plan.

Mr Clifford also describes how “Quarryvale’s raison d’etre was entirely profit”. It was not. My father came back to Ireland because he was motivated by the possibility of providing jobs to prevent some of the emigration that he himself had experienced as a young man. He was, in fact, invited to the area by Dublin Corporation officials to see if he could do something for it, it was not a speculative enterprise on his part. His plans for Quarryvale did not, as Mr Clifford states, cater merely for the “high end” market — rather he intended on bringing in tenants such as Quinnsworth and Superquinn which were aimed squarely at locals. Not only that, he also planned to provide free public transport to and from Balgaddy for the locals to avail of.

What happened subsequently at both Quarryvale and Balgaddy, following my father’s forced departure, had nothing to do with his vision for the area. He himself was a victim of the corruption that blighted Dublin and national politics and planning, something which he revealed at the Mahon Tribunal by being the first to expose the corrupt activities of Frank Dunlop and others. It is utterly wrong and unfair that he be held up as the undoing of a town centre that could never be built, let alone that he be portrayed as somehow complicit in creating the outrageous situation faced by the local people today. Now is the time for some commentators to start properly examining the reality of what happened there, rather than repeating a false narrative used by some powerful people for their own ends.

Thomas Gilmartin Jnr

The Lough

Cork

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