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Why are Irish people building houses in South Africa?

February 23rd, 2010 · 17 Comments · Irish Politics

There has been much coverage in the past few weeks of a major disagreement between Niall Mellon’s Township Trust and Irish Aid – the state funding agency for overseas development aid.

While the funding questions that Irish Aid have about the Trust may be resolved, I’m wondering about the questions about the sustainability of the project and the impact of the building of houses using what many call  ‘experience tourists’ (self funded volunteers going out for a week to build houses) on the skillsbase and infrastructure of the local economy.

We’ve too often heard the mantra –  it takes a village to raise a child – it also takes a community to house jobs to sustain mortgages. I’m wondering what NMTT does to actually create employment, seek investment, provide education and training and support communities to be able to pay for the houses that are being built by the Mellon army?

Mark Tighe reported earlier this month in the Sunday Times on the concerns of the Irish Government

An Irish Aid monitoring report last year found the South African government was concerned that NMTT “may be crowding out local subcontractors and South African companies who are losing business as a result?. It said: “There is concern that the fund-raising activities of NMTT enable it to tender at a commercial advantage.? The report found Mellon’s charity had reached its building targets, but failed to meet development goals. Its training for poor South Africans was limited.

These were questions that those monitoring the project were asking and I’m not sure what the answers are to them. Any use looking forward to Niall Mellon being asked about these issues rather than Des Cahill, Pat Kenny and others giving him hours of free time on their programmes in the months to come.

Mellon is recruiting another 500 people to go to South Africa to build houses and is running ads on television and says he’s oversubscribed.

I don’t understand why we’re not ‘just’ giving money for South Africans to build the houses and supporting the development of sustainable communities?

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