The area around St Laurence O’Toole’s church was buzzing with chatter, music and laughter on Thursday morning as Sheriff Street prepared for its annual St Patrick’s parade.
This is the seventh year of the parade in Dublin’s north inner city. It was started by local childcare workers Lisa Purcell, Sylvia Murtagh and Tina Gallagher, who then brought in Róisín Lonergan, of The Five Lamps Arts Festival, to help out.
It is still very much a grassroots affair, but this year, with some modest funding for the first time from Dublin City Council and Croke Park, Ms Lonergan was able to enlist artistic director Fionnuala Halpin to work with local children. The result is that for the first time there is a float as well as colourful Chinese dragons. The street was thronged with hundreds of local children and parents.
Suzanne Genocky grew up around the corner on Seville Place and had come into town from her home in Blanchardstown to support the parade. Millie Pigott (11) and her mother Sharon were marching behind the St Laurence O'Toole school banner. Millie said she prefers this local parade to the big one on O'Connell Street "because we made all of this up ourselves".
With the Garda Band at its head, the parade set off up Sheriff Street, past Noctor's pub, before swinging left on to Mayor Street and into the glass and steel world of the IFSC. Eleven months ago, 24-year-old drug addict Martin O'Rourke was shot dead outside Noctor's in a case of mistaken identity as part of the Kinahan-Hutch feud.
It is difficult to think of anywhere else in the State where the divisions between wealth and disadvantage are as stark as here. The enclave around Sheriff Street is overlooked by the high walls and glass blocks of the regenerated docklands, but there’s not much sign of economic benefits trickling down from one to the other.
Lindsay Kirby is the home/school community liaison teacher at the local school. She said an event like this is “really important” in light of the events of the past year. “The area has been hit quite hard,” she said. “Things that weren’t normal are now normal, like seeing gardaí with big guns outside the school. You need to have those extra teachers when a child has suffered a bereavement or is acting out.”
Highlight of year
Chair of the local community association Gerry Fay said the parade is a highlight of the year. He is happy with the report produced by Kieran Mulvey, which aims to transform the area from "run down, no-go" area to "modern and attractive", but cautions that what is needed is action rather than words.
"It’s very similar to the 1997 masterplan,” Mr Fay said, referring to the plan drawn up when the old Sheriff Street flats were demolished. “Needless to say, the social element of that was thrown out completely. If you have massive investment and you have one part of the community excluded, you end up with an underclass.”
But this was a day for positivity and celebration for the people of the area. “We wanted to do something positive because we always get negative feedback,” said Lisa Purcell, as the parade arrived back on Sheriff Street. “We feel so proud today.”