Wood you believe it? Readers respond to timber housing comments

Our man Frank on a reader’s response to recent musings on affordable homes, bingo nights and GAA awards, the devastation in Turkey, and a rugby league showdown with Connemara…

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the housing crisis in this country, commenting that in my opinion, timber-framed houses could prove to be the answer to the problem. And this week I can safely say that in the fourteen or so years I have been writing this column, I have never received as much feedback.

Some of my readers told me that I had it all wrong, and that I should be writing about timber houses and not timber-framed houses, and some of them agreed with my assessment that big business, banks, and the construction industry were instrumental in (pardon the pun) ‘blocking’ the development of these much cheaper houses.

However, one north Roscommon reader, a retired construction teacher, took the time out to send me a couple of emails, and in the course of a hugely extensive and informative message, he also took aim at civil servants, planning regulations and what he described as a culture of “objection-ism”.

In his email, he said that anyone in construction could tell us that modern timber or steel frame buildings could produce an excellent A or B-rated home at an affordable price. He agreed that business/professional interests, banks and construction companies were all major obstacles, but on top of those, he said politicians can sometimes prevent progress as well.

Funnily enough, the very same day I received his email, the director of housing and planning at the Construction Industry Federation, Conor O’Connell, backed up his claim, claiming that some politicians have objected to certain developments, while at the same time calling for more housing.

My reader had sent me a piece about a housing development for 400 houses in Midleton, and to support his claim about a culture of “objection-ism”, he said that the group that objected to the development were based many miles away in Mayo. He also laid some of the blame at the feet of civil servants adding that building regulations are far too complicated too.

In another of his emails, he referenced a recent programme in the Irish DIY SOS series, where a number of volunteer construction workers managed to build and landscape a completely new wooden structure in just one week. He told me that there is now an even faster and better way of completing such a project; something called SIPS, which stands for Structural Insulated Panels.

Obviously I am no expert, but it seems to me that if the will was there, it would be possible to house an awful lot of people in cheap, warm, perfectly liveable homes, and do away with the appalling homeless problem.


It’s all happening in Creggs!


A couple of weeks ago I told you about how on the weekend that we were away to see the Ireland France Six Nations match everything was happening back home in Creggs!

On the Friday night, there was bingo in the local school hall, with proceeds going to the school itself, and Olivia Harris tells me that it was a great success. A great crowd turned up (despite my absence) and the even better news is that the €500 jackpot was won on the night! Congratulations to the lucky winner on what was a really nice sum to go home with.

Olivia tells me there will be another bingo night happening around Easter, so you too have a shot at bringing home the jackpot!

The following evening, Creggs GAA Club held its prizegiving night in Jackson’s, Roscommon. The winning Tansey Cup team members were presented with their medals, and the Young Player of the Year and Senior (was going to say the old player, but better not!) Player of the Year also received their awards.

This year, two legends of our club, the late Kathleen McKeague and Conor Connelly, were honoured by having these player of the year awards named after them. Mark Dowd was the recipient of the first Kathleen McKeague Cup for young player, and Enda Conneran was the winner of the Conor Connelly Cup for senior player.

Congratulations to both players, who were very worthy winners. Hopefully they will steer the club to more success this year.

Mark McHugh, the Donegal All-Ireland winner and member of the ‘Rampant Rossies’ backroom team, was our guest on the night, along with Roscommon GAA Chairperson Brian Carroll, and he presented all the victorious players with their medals and awards.

Afterwards, everyone adjourned to JJ’s, where Danny Arnold had them dancing the night away. From there they went to Nancy’s, and hard as I dug for information, that’s where my sources dried up…(although certainly not literally!)


Earthquake brings back

memories of Turkish travels


Some years ago, I spent two weeks in Turkey with a Swedish business man, who was investigating the viability of importing furniture from that country into Ireland. We travelled all over the country, and even then, it was impossible to escape the fact that a lot of the people lived in extremely poor conditions.

Houses, such as they were, were literally built on top of each other. We visited areas where entire villages lived in underground caves without any of the most basic facilities. I remember every car seemed to be at least thirty years old and the roads were in dreadful repair.

However, as in Ireland, the rich were very rich. For a couple of nights, we stayed in an apartment owned by a wealthy Turkish businessman, which was located on the beachfront of the Mediterranean Sea in the city of Adana – and the luxury had to be seen to be believed.

Everything was marble; you could nearly shave yourself (if I was shaving) on the tiles, they were so shiny and polished. We had our own private bar, the light fittings were all of the finest crystal, and the bathroom – with its sunken bath – was big enough to hold a football match!

It was a world removed from that which existed on the outside of our gated complex, which was constantly patrolled by heavily armed guards.

Right outside the gates every day, a young mother, who always had her three children with her, used to sell delicious pancakes for something like 20 cents each. Only if she had some left over at the end of the day would her children get any. If she sold them all, the family would head home to their makeshift house just down the road – effectively a homemade tent comprising of a few sticks and some tarpaulin covering – and, presumably after feeding the kids, the mother would set about making the pancakes that she hoped to sell the following day.

And so, as I read about the horrific earthquake that has devastated so much of Turkey and neighbouring Syria, especially the area around Adana, I wondered if the luxury apartment survived the tremors (and I do hope so), but I know there is no chance for the makeshift tent down the road.

It’s a few years ago since I visited Turkey, and I’m sure things have improved since then but regardless of how much the quality of building has advanced, nothing can withstand the power of nature when it flexes its muscles. The recent earthquake shows how little of our existence we actually control. Natural disasters are becoming more and more frequent too, so as a man I met in the chipper said to me the other night: “We are so lucky to live in wet, windy, but mostly safe, Ireland”.


And finally…


Out here in Creggs, we are looking forward to next Sunday’s rugby league final against old foes Connemara, which will take place in the Sportsground, Galway at 2.30 pm.

It’s been more than 30 years since we last won the league and it’s a tall order for our lads to overcome the ‘All Blacks’ who just last Sunday put 60 points on a Castlebar team that Creggs barely beat just two weeks ago.

The Connemara men are the reigning champions and are definitely be the bookies’ favourites but I have every confidence that our lads can bridge the very long gap and bring the cup back to Creggs.

I can’t wait to see the bonfires lighting in the village on Sunday night and I might even have a celebratory pint or two! Hopefully you can make it to Galway on Sunday afternoon and give our lads the support they deserve and certainly need.