Bahai News - CPO fears for former refugees
Friday, November 9, 2001
CPO fears for former refugees
Iranpour and Susan Qaimmaqami came to Ireland from Iran as refugees 17
years ago. Members of the Baha'i faith, they were threatened with
execution. Iranpour was a veterinary surgeon, Susan a primary teacher,
and they had three teenage children.
"We had to leave because our lives were in danger and we lost everything.
Our friends were arrested and their property taken," says Susan.
Their two-storey, semi-detached cottage in the north Co Sligo village of
Cliffony means a lot to them. It has been home for the past seven years.
A fire blazes in the hearth, and everything in the house is immaculate.
Floor tiles gleam in an extension they built in recent years.
They feel that a compulsory purchase order (CPO) issued by Sligo County
Council in September is threatening everything they have built up. The
cottage is one of 11 located in a row on Chapel Road, close to the
centre of Cliffony. Each is built on about an acre, and these long back
gardens are the subject of the CPO. The council wants the land for
social and affordable housing.
However, the Qaimmaqamis have other plans for the land. Iranpour is an expert
on honey bees, and the couple have beehives and have produced their own
honey. They have also built a tunnel for growing organic vegetables,
something they planned to develop more over future years.
Susan says they were hoping to be able to pass this on to their children
and grandchildren. Their son, Armin Samali, an engineer and management
consultant, has proved a very eloquent and effective spokesman for the
residents and owners of the 11 cottages, all of whom are opposed to the CPO.
They protested at Monday's County Council meeting, and Armin gave a
presentation to the councillors, all of whom with one exception voted
for the CPO to be withdrawn. It being an executive function, however,
the county manager said he could not withdraw it, a legal point disputed
by some councillors.
The matter will now go before a Bord Pleanála oral hearing, and
residents say it will be a very expensive process for them. Neighbours
crowd into the Qaimmaqamis' small sitting room to tell their stories.
Mr Ciaran McSharry doesn't live in one house, but he has plans to
renovate it and retire there. "People should have the right to retain
their property," he says.
Mr Daniel Wymbs says his family has lived in the house for generations.
"It's not a question of money but a right to our heritage."
They argue that the council had other options: there is land available in
the area, and houses have also been built close by which remain on the
market. They stress that they are not against social housing being built
in the area. The council has said it had problems acquiring land nearby.
The entrance to the planned development of 80 houses would be through
the front garden of a house occupied by an 87-year-old woman. They would
be left with very small back gardens because the CPO land begins at 21
metres from the original houses, but some have now built extensions, and
these are not taken into account.
The residents have accused County Council officials of not carrying out
proper consultation and a council statement has accepted that the
consultation process was not as thorough as it could have been. The council
has said that after discussions with some land-owners it became clear that
full agreement would not be reached, and this was why a CPO was issued.
Senior officials have also denied allegations that they had picked the
site because the residents were "vulnerable". They said the decision was
taken based on technical advice.
The council has argued that it has more than 600 people on its waiting
list for accommodation, but the Chapel Road residents have questioned
how many of these are in the north Co Sligo area.
Residents are hopeful that they can convince An Bord Pleanála that
there is a better way to acquire land for housing.
©Copyright 2001, The Irish Times
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