Behind the News: Life in St Teresa’s Gardens
As Dublin gives the go-ahead for a €10m regeneration project, one resident talks about her hopes for the future
How it looked: St Teresa’s Gardens in 2009. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Ann Fahy has been living in St Teresa’s Gardens in Dublin 8 for 19 years. “I am from here originally. I was reared in the flats, but then I moved out to Ballyfermot and moved back in with my children,” she says. She now lives in a three-bedroom flat with her four children and a niece.
The 1950s blocks next to Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital have often been cited as among the city’s most deprived areas, with high levels of crime and antisocial behaviour. Now, with plans finally in place to redevelop the area, many of the flats are unoccupied, leaving the remaining 85 families living in cold, damp, neighbourless flats.
Weekend parties are the worst aspect of living in the semi- derelict complex now, says Fahy. “Loads of kids come in here at the weekends and during the holidays, because so many of the flats are empty, and there is constant loud music.”
But Fahy, who sits on St Teresa’s Gardens Regeneration Board, is optimistic about the future. “I think Dublin City Council is doing a pretty good job and has shifted a lot of people out of the area, getting rid of some of the problems. There are a few people holding up the demolition of some of the blocks.”
Under council plans announced this week, 50 homes will be built: 16 three- to five-storey apartments and 34 two- or three-storey terraced houses. The plans also include the refurbishment of two of the existing blocks, to provide 57 temporary homes while the new homes are under construction.
Twelve of the 14 apartment blocks have planning permission for demolition, and one has already been demolished. Construction work is expected to begin at the start of next year; the homes should be ready by the end of 2016. The project has a budget of about €10 million.
Fahy is hopeful that plans for the new children’s hospital on the St James’s Hospital site will bring work to the area. “I’m keeping my children in education, so that they can get better jobs – unlike me, who had to leave school at 16 and get a job to support my family. I want a better life for them than standing on corners and pushing prams.”
St Teresa’s Gardens Regeneration Board is also working to secure funds for social initiatives. “The accommodation is substandard, but the bricks and mortar is only a part of it. The unemployment and unrelenting poverty has to be dealt with too,” says Eadaoin Ní Chléirigh, the board’s chief executive.
Everyone involved believes the economic conditions are right this time, unlike in 2009, when plans to demolish and rebuild the flats in a public-private partnership fell through.
Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, an obstetrician at the Coombe who chairs the St Teresa’s board, says, “This project will mark the beginning of the renaissance of this part of the city and will provide a stimulus for inward investment, job creation and infrastructural development. This is a resilient community, and I’m very proud to be associated with them.”