A TD for some of Dublin’s poorest areas was stunned by the poverty she encountered during a recent visit to Derry’s big estates, describing them as ‘like something from the wild west’ and a throwback to the capital in the 1990s.
Brid Smith, a People Before Profit TD for Dublin South Central, was in Derry last month canvassing for Eamonn McCann in the recent election.
She said the working-class areas where she was knocking doors reminded her of Ballyfermot in the 1990s.
“I was in Derry over a recent weekend to campaign for the election of Eamonn McCann and I was taken aback by the shocking levels of deprivation and poverty in some of the large estates on the outskirts of the city,” she said, during a debate on the North in the Dáil.
“I had not seen anything like it in a long time. The closest I have seen to it was 20 years ago when I first moved to Ballyfermot and Cherry Orchard, which is still neglected but was even more so at that stage. It looked like something from the wild west. That is what the outskirts of Derry reminded me of a couple of weeks ago.”
Ms. Smith claimed failing to address neglect in working-class areas while focusing on constitutional and identity issues would repeat Éamon de Valera’s mistakes of a century ago.
“What is happening in the North is a modern version of ‘Labour must wait’ whereby economic and social issues are parked in order to talk about equality and parity of esteem between nationalists and unionists,” said Ms. Smith.
“It is not for me to tell Sinn Féin what to do or to advise anybody in the North, but while there has to be a focus on the issue of corruption and, as is being done, the Irish language and equality, the economic issues cannot be ignored.
“We should not be rushing to reduce corporation tax, shed public sector jobs and cut education and health services to maintain a competitive level playing field with the South of Ireland,” she added.
The People Before Profit TD also claimed the devolved institutions in the North are perpetuating sectarianism.
“If one is elected to the Stormont Assembly, one declares oneself as ‘nationalist’, ‘unionist’ or ‘other’. Where else and in what other parliament would one do that, except perhaps one that oversaw apartheid as in South Africa?” she asked.
She added: “That sectarianism is maintained by the structures in Stormont itself. We can only challenge that sectarianism and reaction by challenging the structures which maintain them.”