This is a piece I’ve written for the Right2Change publication currently making its way across the country. If we don’t have an open media we’ll have to spread the word ourselves!!
Four decades after a report was written that would have gone a long way towards stopping the speculation and massive free-for-all in land and property development, which also was a major part of the banking mess, we still live in the wild-west of gombeenism.
It could be said, unfortunately, that the reason for successive governments ignoring the report is exactly the fact that it would have effectively brought about an end to land speculation.
The Kenny report commissioned in January 1971by the Fianna Fail government of Jack Lynch and Erskine Childers had as its terms of reference:
“To consider, in the interests of the common good, possible measures for – (a) controlling the price of land required for housing and other forms of development, (b) ensuring that all or a substantial part of the increase in the value of land attributable to the decisions and operations of public authorities (including, in particular, decisions and operations relating to the provision of sewerage and water schemes by local authorities) shall be secured for the benefit of the community. 2. To report on the merits and demerits of any measures considered, with particular reference to their legal and administrative practicability. 3. To advise on what changes in the present law may be required to give effect to any measures recommended.”
The report was published in 1974 (The same year, according to the Flood Tribunal, that former Fianna Fail TD Ray Burke received a £3 million controversial payment from two builders). The report was given over to the Fine Gael government of Liam Cosgrave and Brendan Corish; it recommended that building land should be compulsorily acquired by local authorities for agricultural value plus 25 per cent. The recommendation was in line with common practice in England where the government decides when development or building is needed. After that, all of the land required is taken into public ownership then a plan is prepared and parcels are released for development.
Even after the Flood-Mahon Tribunal, where we were made very aware about the corruption around land development, a solution in the form of the recommendation of the Kenny Report has not been put in place.
In an interview with the Sunday Tribune in 2006 Garret Fitzgerald of Fine Gael said, “I’m still not clear in recollection as to why it wasn’t tackled when we were in…I remember some discussion as to the arguments but I can’t recall the outcome.” But, a normal Joe or Mary Soap would say that the reason was that Fine Gael know exactly where their fundraising comes from and who their voters are – there was never any chance they would take on massive farmers, landowners, and developers.
The Green Party had the recommendations of the Kenny Report in their manifesto in 2006; the same year Bertie Ahern was in the media spot-light for allegations of taking monies from developers. Fianna Fail, with the help of an uncritical media, were returned in the next election with the Green Party. As has always been the case, absolutely nothing happened to tackle the issue of planning corruption.
The role of government since the foundation of the state has unfortunately always been to serve the interests of the wealthy. It’s time to turn away from the parties of corruption and special interests. In the year of the centenary of 1916 we can begin the process of building a republic which places the needs of the people before a greedy minority; the Right2Change policy principles are the building blocks upon which we can do that.
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