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Remarks on visiting the renovation of homes at Inchicore by Habitat for Humanity Ireland

16th April 2012

I am delighted to be in your company here today. My thanks to Karen Kennedy from Habitat for Humanity Ireland for inviting me to celebrate this wonderful occasion with you.

One of my reasons for accepting this invitation was my great respect for the work of Habitat Ireland. Another was the proximity of Inchicore to my new home in the Phoenix Park. Since we share a common neighbourhood, it seemed entirely fitting to be here on this joyous day as Jennifer, Keith and Fiona settle into their new homes. From one neighbour to another, I say welcome and wish for you and your families every happiness and fulfilment in this close-knit community of Inchicore.

Our homes mean more to us than just a roof over our heads and a safe place to live and rest. While shelter is vitally important, our homes are much more than that; they are at the centre of the most important relationships in our lives – be they family, friends, neighbours and the wider community we live in. Having a home is a basic human right, but it also allows us to lead happy and fulfilling lives. For those of you who, like me, are soccer aficionados the proximity to the grounds of St. Patrick’s Athletic will no doubt be an added bonus

These newly renovated homes on Emmet Road are a wonderful example of how families can have an active and integral part in the creation of their new home. In my inauguration address, I encouraged all citizens, of all ages, to make their own imaginative and practical contribution to the shaping of our shared future. What more tangible contribution could any citizen make than to be directly involved in the renovation of these homes which has involved so much hands-on work in design and construction from the residents themselves.

This level of engagement is unique in the field of social housing provision and I strongly commend this partnership approach. Real engagement and meaningful participation by each and every citizen in building community and strengthening civil society is not just a hollow aspiration. The work undertaken by Habitat for Humanity and its partners on this project is a visible manifestation of the kind of transformational change that can take place when people mobilise around a positive vision and follow through with purposeful action.

There is a saying in Irish: “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine”; or people live in one another’s shelter. This phrase for me carries something of the essence of the work of Habitat for Humanity in its efforts to combat housing poverty on the international stage. At its core the organisation recognises that people are interdependent and, if given the opportunity to work together in partnership, are capable of doing incredible things to improve their own lives and the lives of others. In its own words, Habitat does not simply build for people, it builds with people.

Habitat for Humanity International started off as the vision of a very successful lawyer and businessman, Millard Fuller, and his wife Linda in the United States. Their aim was to build houses on a non-profit and no-interest basis which would make homes affordable to families with low incomes. The organisation today has the same core mission - it partners with homeowners, volunteers, professionals, public bodies and donors and provides simple, decent affordable homes out of the combined contributions of materials, land, money and time offered by various partners. This partnership model has enabled Habitat to serve more than two million people in over ninety countries to date.

Homebuilding in Ireland has come through a turbulent and disturbing chapter in its history and the speculative bubble that developed played a major role in the downturn in our economy. Our recent experience has demonstrably proven that unless property development is pursued in a properly regulated, sustainable and ethical manner, the economic and social costs that arise are enormous – for the families trapped in negative equity and on ghost estates and for wider society trying to manage a debt burden that is a drag on the economy.

Transformational projects, like this one in Inchicore, give me great faith in the ability of our country to rise above current adversities and to come back better and stronger than ever. The talents of our people combined with our strong sense of community spirit, inclusiveness and partnership are key strengths which will serve us well in delivering on the limitless possibilities that the Irish people are capable of achieving.

Clearly, we cannot go back to doing things in the same way as we did before. We need new models of working together that will transcend the shortcoming of our recent experience. Models that are not constructed on the basis of individual greed but, like Habitat for Humanity, operate on the principles of solidarity, partnership and collaborative endeavour. This is particularly relevant in the provision of social housing which I have always seen as being a fundamental building block for a fair and equitable society.

The project we see here today in Inchicore is not by any means a one-off development within Dublin City. These new homes are part of a small but growing family of new and existing homes which have been delivered or are in progress in Ballyfermot, Ballymun and Finglas. I commend Dublin City Council for the manner in which they have embraced and supported the community and partnership engagement fostered by Habitat. Long may such partnership, collaboration and good work continue.

Habitat’s mission statement is: “Building a world where everyone has a simple, decent place to live”. This reflects the fact that Habitat of Humanity is an international organisation with an international focus. The Irish branch of the organisation supports the international efforts by sending teams of Irish volunteers oversees to help build homes through its global village programme. While we are celebrating an achievement today which may be perceived as small in scale and local in nature, it is nonetheless a very important part of a life-enhancing endeavour that has a large and global foot-print.

In conclusion, I again commend Habitat for Ireland for their groundbreaking work in the area of alleviating housing poverty at home and abroad. I wish the partner families here in Inchicore long years of health and happiness in their splendid new homes.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.