Taoiseach pledges to tackle inner city issues in Dublin

Enda Kenny met residents to hear of the social and economic problems affecting the area

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to reporters outside St Laurence O’Toole School in Dublin’s north inner city where they met with community leaders. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to reporters outside St Laurence O’Toole School in Dublin’s north inner city where they met with community leaders. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

appreciated the interest the Taoiseach and several Ministers showed by visiting the area this week, but warned it must be followed by the delivery of real change.

On Tuesday, Enda Kenny and several senior Ministers, including the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe, and Minister for Education Richard Bruton, met community activists and residents in St Laurence O’Toole’s school on Seville Place to hear about the social and economic problems in the area, which has been blighted for decades by drugs and, more recently, by gang-related murders.

The Taoiseach promised to set up a high-level taskforce to work with the community, identifying and implementing solutions.

“If you’d never heard it all before, it would sound impressive,” a slightly weary Seanie Lamb said yesterday.

Mr Lamb, who chairs Icon, the Inner City Organisations Network, and is director of the Inner City Renewal Group, said he nonetheless welcomed Mr Kenny’s interest and took the Taoiseach at his word.

Driving the project

“I am absolutely certain that a taskforce is necessary,” he said. “You need someone driving the project to change thinking in Government and the public service.”

Mr Kenny said he will personally oversee the work of the task force which will focus on the area east of Amiens Street.

Mr Lamb and other community leaders are to draw up a plan for the, as yet unappointed, taskforce. For anything to succeed, he said, there needed to be “long-term commitment, and not only resources, but a change in the way Government treats poor communities”.

He said investment in deprived areas needed to focus on employment, especially youth employment, housing, education and the drug problem.

“They need to understand that the kind of problems that have built up over generations cannot be addressed by policing alone,” said Mr Lamb. The underlying issues that propelled inner city communities into headlines in recent weeks were all related to poverty and disadvantage and “cannot be solved overnight”, he said.

Decades of neglect

That

view was shared by Pat Gates of Young People At Risk who said there are “no easy answers” and determination is needed. “We need Ministers who are prepared to try, fail but then try again,” he said.

He suggested between 10 and 20 years’ focus on tackling poverty and unemployment would make a significant impact on the result of decades of neglect. “Young people are being groomed by criminal gangs,” he said. He lamented the exclusion of the Sheriff Street area from the newly defined Strategic Development Zone of the docklands.