Niamh Mongey

Social Democrats candidate for Ballyfermot-Drimnagh

How would you help get more housing built in the city – especially social and affordable housing?

Systemic change around housing in Ireland is needed now due to current mismanagement of funds. The end-year figures for 2023 show an exchequer surplus of €1.2 billion, while the government fell short of its social housing targets by 2,700 homes.

The State must take an immediate and proactive role in delivering social and affordable homes - state land can be used to build thousands of affordable homes that are sold or rented at cost. The Ó Cualann developments in Ballymun in Dublin, Ardmore in Waterford and Knocknaheeney in Cork are great examples of a model that works. 

We don’t have to look too far to see that what is happening in Dublin is not the norm. In Paris, one quarter of its residents now live in public housing; an increase from 13% in the late 1990s. This is part of a programme, championed by left-wing parties in the city who believe that the people who produce the riches of a city - the teachers, the street cleaners, the nurses, the students; all have a right to live in and contribute to the city. 

Another model that we must look to, is Denmark’s socially democratic approach to building and providing housing for its citizens. Since 1919, Denmark’s national public housing system – which is open to all – has been managed by non-profit housing developments.

In Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, developers who wish to invest in the land are required to submit a proposal to state how their development will benefit the community. This is all done in consultation with the community and it works due to intervention at council level, proper governance and accountability.  

How would you help improve conditions in existing housing, both social and privately rented?

Minimum standards for rented accommodation are not being met in this city. Too many renters are living in homes that become damp and mouldy during the winter months. This is unacceptable when you consider the going rate for room rentals; an average of €400 per week in Dublin City according to Ireland’s 2022 Census. It's up to our local authority to enforce these standards and to hold private landlords accountable - with penalties for landlords in breach of housing regulations. 

For landlords seeking to improve apartments or duplexes built between 1991 - 2013, the Interim New Remediation scheme will provide funding for fire safety defects, structural defects and defects caused by water getting into a property. The means are there to support the renewal of buildings that are not fit for purpose for private renters. 

What would you do to help make the city feel less dirty, tackling the rubbish and dog poo all over the streets?

One of my top priorities is to push for cleaner, safer, more accessible streets in our city. As a mother of two young children, I am constantly trying to avoid dog litter with my buggy. In the area where I live, the litter problem is unacceptable, and it is damaging our collective sense of civic pride. 

The issues with litter on our streets is partly due to the privatisation of our waste companies who do not have our communities in mind. Waste management should move back into the public realm so that there is a greater sense of accountability at council level. 

The water quality of the filter beds at the Fifth Lock in the Bluebell Waterways was once so high that it supplied water to Guinness. The enhancement of our water quality should be an urgent priority for our council.

One great example of the improvement of our waters and effective community engagement, is the DCC funded Liffey Love project by the visual artist Rhona Byrne. Byrne is working on the Liffey Sweeper with Jimmy Murray - Director of the Irish Nautical Trust - to dredge plastic from the Liffey and repurpose it as a piece of public art - a ‘Love Seat’ on the docklands near Ringsend.

Projects like this one engage formally with people in the community and help promote a sense of civic pride -- two things that are at the top of my agenda. 

What would you do to help tackle vacancy and dereliction?

The number of vacant buildings in our city during a housing crisis is an embarrassment. There is a lack of imagination around planning and making use of vacant space in our city. Every local authority across Ireland should prioritise a hike in taxation for private buildings that have run into dereliction. 

I want to push for vacant and derelict properties owned by the Council to be brought back into use. For example, the old library on Emmet Road in Inchicore is a beautiful old public building that has fallen into disrepair causing much frustration for locals and heritage groups. This is one of many sites sitting vacant.

Just this week, an Irish Times article references a derelict site in Dublin 8 that has been a point of contention for developers and DCC and has been lying unused for more than 20 years. The piece also points to four other sites in the vicinity, it is not acceptable to have so many spaces lying unsafe and unused. 

What needs to be done to make the city feel safer?

We all noticed a growth in anti-social behaviour during the Covid lockdowns. Unfortunately some of this behaviour has continued and can be seen most starkly through the recent riots in Dublin.

There are lots of actions that need to be taken to tackle this complicated problem, and we're all feeling a great sense of frustration, disillusionment and a lack of civic pride in our city and its outskirts.

It is heartening to see that people are taking action to combat this. I admire the work that Robbie Kitt and Sunil Sharpe are doing through their campaign Give Us The Night, lobbying for more social spaces and creating a safer, more inclusive night-time economy. More social spaces mean less anti-social behaviour. 

I want to push for properly funded social spaces where young people feel safe, supported and comfortable enough to build their community. We need to listen to young people’s needs and create spaces in consultation with them - we can’t assume we know what they need. 

What needs to be done to improve public transport in the city?

In my area, Ballyfermot - Drimnagh, which covers parts of Inchicore, Chapelizod, Walkinstown and Cherry Orchard, there are huge concerns about the changes made to three crucial bus services. The number 13 bus in particular will be a huge loss for people who rely on this service. Cutting people off from local bus routes that connect them to the city and its services will have a significant negative impact on the community. The changed routes result in many people facing longer wait times and further distances to walk from at night. 

What should be done to make it nicer and safer for people to get around the city on foot and by bike?

Our streets are not accessible for wheelchair users, mothers wheeling buggies or folks with limited mobility. Cracked pavements have been dug up by council works and forgotten about, leaving uneven and unsafe walkways for vulnerable people. Cars parked up on pathways and ramps that are too steep also prevent people from moving around the city with ease. 

I am greatly encouraged by the number of commuters travelling into the city centre by bike each day. However, I would advocate for an increase in safe bike paths for people travelling further distances. I would also advocate for the Dublin Bike Scheme to be rolled and properly maintained in the Ballyfermot - Drimnagh area. 

What would you do to help counter the rise of the far right, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ+ hate, and anti-asylum-seeker arsons?

As a long-time ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, I am appalled by the unhealthy rise in far right sentiment – much of this anger and opposition to our increasingly diverse society is due to inadequate public information, a large distrust in government and a lack of proper integration at grassroots level. 

Our local councillors have a moral responsibility to address the fear of change which many people in the community feel. We need to do better when it comes to integration programmes. We need to resource more local art projects, coffee mornings and community events - these small-scale initiatives can be very impactful and are all part of building sustained connection across our cultures. Our councillors need to prioritise integration in the long-term so that those who are marginalised feel safe and welcome in our communities.