News: Ireland’s housing minister visits Innisfree housing association

Irish WorldMembers of Innisfree Housing Association welcomed Roscommon man Michael Finneran TD who arrived at Clochar Court, Harlesden, north London last Thursday morning.

The Irish Minister for Housing and Local Services met with members of the Innisfree Housing Association, as well as residents of the property to discuss housing possibilities in Ireland, as well as the difficulty in securing available housing for the elderly and vulnerable at home and here in London.

The Minister, who spent time in London in the 1960s, even turning his hand to pulling pints in The Boston Arms, spoke of the importance in recognising the requirement for suitable housing for those in need.

Innisfree is a beautiful, relaxing environment. The main reception room is open and inviting, with a cosy hearth and comfortable armchairs. This room backs on to the lush garden of Clochar Court, which is maintained by the residents. The garden is skilfully landscaped and residents also grow their own vegetables there.

Clare Winstanley, chief executive of Innisfree Housing Association, was a welcoming presence at the informal meeting, and made sure that everybody was well catered for. Clare is passionate about the care of the inhabitants of Innisfree, and spoke at length about the daily programmes that are available for the residents, including bingo and a coffee morning every Friday. The arrival of new computers to the room also added to the list of activities that are offered.

John O’Connor, chief executive of the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency was also in attendance. He joined the Minister for Housing at a Housing Federation dinner the night before. Mr. Finneran proposed the idea of getting prominent members of the Housing Association in Britain to join forces with the Irish Housing association to find a solution to the housing crisis.

Michael Finneran, second from right, with association colleagues

“There is a lot of expertise over here”, the Minister said, praising Clúid Housing Association (formerly known as St. Pancras Housing Association). He spoke of the difficulty that people who are living in temporary accommodation in Ireland have with forming relationships. ‘People are living for six to eight years in B&Bs; they have no chance at life”. The Minister was also quick to point out that despite the amount of empty houses in Ireland, this did not ease the problem of finding appropriate social housing for those in need:

“People are of the opinion that housing will be easier to come by in Ireland as there are so many empty residences available. But the reality is that there are only 42,000 houses available as social and affordable housing. And there’s no point in putting people in half finished estates”.

The Minister also gave a short tutorial on the history of the Irish in the US, namely in Boston, in the 1940s.

“Irish Catholics were treated like second class citizens. Although this may seem like a distant memory, the fact remains that anti-Irish discrimination still exists. Sadly, there are reports of some Innisfree tenants still experiencing anti-Irish harassment – unacceptable in this day and age.”

The Minister went on to praise the great work that is being done by the Innisfree housing association, in providing comfortable, safe and homely accommodation for the Irish community in London.

Holly Kiernan

This article is reproduced courtesy of The Irish World.

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