Darndale: ‘It is about a lack of Garda presence. There is anarchy at the moment’

Day after the shooting dead of Jordan Davis locals call for more gardaí on the ground

Fr Edward Quinn was sitting in his house in Darndale when he heard several shots ring out. Within moments, a woman ran in from the adjoining New Life community centre. "Come quick," she said.

Instinctively, he reached for the holy oils and went out into the lane that runs between the community centre and the primary school, to the sprawling housing estate that surrounds them.

“The poor fella was lying there,” he said, “I gave him the last rites and said a prayer for him. A young life snuffed out so quickly like that. In the blink of an eyelid. A whole life gone.”

A day after Jordan Davis (23) was shot dead while walking his four-month-old baby boy in a buggy, a number of young men – in their late teens to early 20s – stood sentry over the murder scene. Some who tried to get close to see the messages on a clutch of bouquets left in tribute to the community’s latest victim were harangued. One was threatened with violence.

The lane runs into the Darndale-Belcamp Village Centre. The modern building houses a creche, a senior citizens’ centre, training courses, a Health Service Executive health centre and mental health clinic. There is also a pharmacy, a chip shop and an off-licence.

“People are terrified,” says Nicko Murphy, from Darndale, who works at the village centre.

“There is a fear of what comes next. The fear of the unknown. A minority has instilled a level of anxiety in the community here that people are really on edge,” says Murphy. The biggest shock, he says, is how and when it happened. “The man was wheeling a buggy. You don’t expect a baby to be exposed to something like that.”

Mr Murphy says the audacity of the daylight killing at 4pm on Wednesday “shows where their heads are at”.

“I don’t think any community service can resolve it. This is a top-tier courts and policing issue.”

In Darndale, cannabis-smoking is commonplace, heroin is “massive”, crack cocaine is hitting the community “like a tonne of bricks”, while new drugs include flakka, a narcotic, also known as alpha-PVP, he says.

Youngsters are offered top-end runners, clothing, jewellery and smartphones to do the work on the ground for the “big frys”. Once they get older, they are offered cars.

“There are plenty of commodities that come with their [drug dealing] lifestyle. But it is a short-lived lifestyle,” he says grimly.

Drug running

Linda Hayden, chief executive of the village centre, says "out of control" children as young as nine are drug running.

“We are awash with services,” she says, pointing at facilities around the centre that would be the envy of countless villages countrywide. “It is not about money, it is about a lack of Garda presence. It is a lack of taking control. There is anarchy at the moment.”

She recalls that after a previous killing, the known gunman walked into the village centre the next morning for a breakfast roll. “The saddest thing in our community is the acceptance of it. It is like they don’t see it anymore.”

Ms Hayden and Mr Murphy stress that Darndale is not unique. There is great work being done in the community they say, but both keep coming back to the need for more gardaí on the ground.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris needs to go to Darndale and "see what happens", says Ms Hayden. "It's a law and order issue. It sickens me that gardaí are out on roads checking road tax when this kind of anarchy is going on."

Recently, the Garda public order unit drove around frequently for a couple of weeks. It made a “massive difference”, she said. “The elderly started going to the bingo again.”

“A lot of people won’t leave their homes, they won’t go out in the evening. A lot of people just bury their heads, say they are not integrating. They go to work, come home and lock the doors. This is a community in trauma, a community screaming out for help. Something different needs to happen.”

Overlooking his kitchen garden growing onions, leeks, herbs and tomatoes, Fr Quinn says Darndale is made up of “salt of the earth, true Dubs” who respond in times of crisis “and who will respond to this as well”.

Like other places, Darndale has its problems, but life goes on. Schoolchildren are preparing for Confirmations this weekend: “The younger children all want to be something big and important some day,” says the priest. “Maybe some will get disillusioned along the way. We just hope for better days.”