I am immensely proud to call the north inner-city of Dublin my home. My friends, neighbours and family members who live here and know the area would exude the very same sense of pride. There has always been an embedded sense of community and solidarity among people here. It has been tested through decades of inequality and systemic neglect, of drug epidemics and outbreaks of violence, but that togetherness has always prevailed.
In just over 100 days between February and today, an escalation of violence in our area has taken the lives of Eddie Hutch, Martin O’Rourke, Michael Barr and Gareth Hutch. The devastation caused by this violence to their loved-ones and communities can never be understated. Amongst this immediate devastation, however, there are wider and long-standing implications.
My friend and colleague in the Social Democrats in Dublin Central, Gary Gannon, has been a Councillor representing the North Inner-City area since 2014. During this time, he has spoken on a daily basis with young parents whose children are developing anxiety problems and sleep disorders – if they’re not suffocated physically by inadequate living conditions, they’re suffocated emotionally and psychologically by a pervading sense of fear that intoxicates entire families, streets, estates.
This recent escalation of violence is the culmination, in part at least, of three factors:
Underinvestment in Community Development – between 2008 and 2014, while overall State expenditure was reduced by 7.1% from €53.4bn to €49.6bn, the funding for community and voluntary organisations was reduced on average by 35%; with local community development cut by 44%; drug prevention 37%; family support 31%; and youth services 20%.
Neglect of housing needs – whether that’s the delivery of new units or adequate maintenance of older ones. Those on DCC’s housing waiting list in excess of 10 years skyrocketed from 1,368 in July 2015 to 2,053 in May 2016 – a 50% increase. Meanwhile, the planned redevelopment of complexes such as St. Mary’s Mansions and O’Devaney Gardens – just as two examples – has stalled time and again. Living conditions in these flats are completely unacceptable. The plight of residents in Constitution Hill has been well documented on this site in recent months.
Inaccessibility of decent education – H.E.A. figures for 2011/12, as highlighted in a recent Irish Times piece on educational inequality, show a stark contrast in 3rd level participation rates across Dublin postcodes. The rate stood at 23% in Dublin 1– by comparison, the figure was 84% in Dublin 4, 89% in Dublin 6 and 86% in Dublin 6W
In Irish politics, the will to implement long-term solutions has always been sorely lacking – this will resonate with people from any and every background; it’s not exclusive to this area. Modular housing units, temporary additional Garda resources, the universally maligned JobsBridge scheme – the commonality here is a short-term, simplistic approach to complex societal issues. Our policy makers’ consistent neglect of at least exploring better solutions is palpable; its consequences evident to those observing from afar and crushing to those caught in the midst.
Despite this, great things do happen in our community. Sherriff YC recently won their 6th league title alongside an FAI Youth Cup. Kids in Conso courageously took on and defeated DCC on their safety concerns and need for better amenities. Amazing young people are emerging all the time as equality advocates, community leaders, athletes, actors, artists and musicians – all with minimal resources behind them. Imagine how much could be achieved here with adequate services and conditions for people to grow up in. Imagine how much different the narrative could be on the North Inner-City in a decade’s time.
The mainstream media’s more sensationalist contributors are ten-a-penny around here at the moment. Their reporting on the big events – crime, guns, murder, and getaway cars – is fast, furious and far-reaching. When this escalation of violence dies down, albeit temporarily, you won’t find them analysing the long-term causes, nor will you find them balancing their reportage with good news stories from a community which achieves so much in spite of its challenges. That doesn’t generate a national buzz and it doesn’t sell papers. It’s an irritation but one you come to accept.
What shouldn’t be accepted, however, is our legislators taking the same approach. Communities here are crying out for solutions – REAL solutions. I don’t want to read this piece back in 20 years’ time as we reel from a series of needless deaths of another generation of isolated kids. I don’t want to be a father visiting the next generation’s Gary Gannon with a child who can’t sleep at night.
Eoin Ó Faogáin