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O’Brien to Church: ‘Let us buy your land on cheap, so we can sell onto our friends”

If you knew Post-Everything Fianna Fáil less well, then you might get the impression that there was something other than desperation behind their latest appeal to the dwindling band of people who might vote for them.

Their Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has apparently written to the Catholic Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin to suggest that the Church might consider making its lands available to be part of the Government’s alleged Housing for All plan.

Apparently, the letter sent last week includes a proposal that the Church might give the state the first option to buy any land it might feel compelled to let go. This is the same chap, incidentally, who is on the record as defending the sale of lands already in public ownership to private developers – the same developed who are then in the happy position to sell or lease back to the state homes that can be used at great cost to pretend that they are fulfilling the demand for “social housing.”

Given the past relationship between Minister O’Brien’s party and said property developers, an unkind person might characterise gambit in relation to Church lands as: “Let us buy your land on the cheap, so we can sell it on to our friends.”

From a cynical perspective, O’Brien is trying to apply moral pressure on the Catholic Church as a follow on to Archbishop Martin’s previous references to the need for “radical action” to be taken in order to address the need for housing.

It is also of course part of Fianna Fáil’s embarrassing-uncle-break-dancing-at-the-wedding routine designed to entice the Yuff and others who they think are impressed by such grand standing – and will compete with the far left who just want to take the land anyway. Maybe then Ireland can emulate the dazzling housing triumphs of socialist Bucharest and Nizhny Novgorod in the halcyon days of 40-story tenements.

Without even getting into the historical and other reasons why the Church ought not to be brow beaten into handing over its property to the state, as others have pointed out the Catholic Church has a long record in providing housing and support for the homeless and others in need. This long pre-dated state intervention.

Indeed, when Darragh O’Brien’s own party was a genuine representative of a substantial section of the Irish people, it was able to administer a successful housing strategy that brought together all key actors including the state, Church and indigenous construction companies. Such an organic vision has long since been jettisoned by the entire existing and aspirant political elite across all parties in the Dáil.

And while he is at it, why not pressure others to sell their land to the state at knockdown prices? Has he sent similar letters to the Church of Ireland for example? Or to the GAA? After all, think of all the green space that could host multi story apartment blocks instead of being wasted on bogball and stick fighting?

Particularly as they will be much less needed given the population projections based on the requirements of international capital, and probably few will bother with such archaic native pastimes and other anachronisms soon enough.

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