Young people's criminal records should be wiped once they reach 25, the former chair of the Workplace Relations Commission has said.
Kieran Mulvey was briefing residents of Dublin's northeast inner-city on his report about what needs to be done to regenerate the area.
He was appointed by Government last July, in the wake of a series of so-called "gangland" murders, to compile a report for a ministerial taskforce chaired by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on the community's needs.
The area has some of the highest poverty rates in the State since the decline of the docks in the late 1960s. Since the 1980s, it has been harshly hit by successive drugs crises which have devastated many young lives through addiction, Aids and involvement in criminality.
Mr Mulvey, whose final report will be submitted to Government next week, said the lack of employment opportunities for young people meant many were attracted to the drugs trade.
“Then they are into the culture and into using the product. Your access to employment ends as soon as an employer sees a criminal record on a CV. We have to change that and take crime off the record [committed while] people were aged 18 to 25. We have to believe errors committed in youth can be forgotten and overcome. We have to help people into employment and not condemn them to repeated visits to Mountjoy.”
The main issues Mr Mulvey said needed to be tackled were housing conditions, corporate responsibilities of the business community, policing, education, the physical environment and the role of Nama in investing in the area.
He suggested the name “northeast inner-city” be changed, arguing it had negative connotations. “The narrative has to change. It has to be made more positive”. He said cities in other countries had changed the names of areas that had had negative reputations.
There were great physical assets, he said, a rich history and important heritage in the area which should be “mined and maximised”.
Several speakers expressed anger that the Rutland Street School building may not now be refurbished as a community facility – despite a long-standing commitment to do so – because Dublin City Council said it would not be "cost-effective".
Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald said the promise to the community by the Taoiseach must be “made good”. Mr Mulvey agreed it was an “iconic building” and said he would champion the issue.
Ms McDonald also raised housing conditions, saying it was no good expecting children to do well in school if they were returning to a flat where there was no room for a table, where “there is so much damp the poor child can barely breathe and where their mother is up to her eyes with stress.
“That child is facing disadvantages and challenges which may never be overcome.”
Mr Mulvey agreed, saying, “I cannot believe, in the second decade of the 21st century, we have some of the housing conditions we have in the inner-city”.
It was also “unacceptable” that people felt “unsafe” in the area. He said Fitzgibbon Street Garda station should be reopened and more CCTV should be installed throughout the area.
He would “really tackle” the business community. The days of “corporate responsibility”, meaning free football jerseys or fixing a school wall were over. He wants to see businesses working with local schools and colleges and offering quality jobs to suitably qualified local people.