A time to listen, and act

Dublin’s north inner city reflects the social deprivation exploited by drug gangs

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny brought along six ministers and senior officials from State agencies when he met community leaders from Dublin’s north inner city.

It was intended to demonstrate the Government’s concern for an area that had witnessed four of the seven gangland murders of recent months. Wisely, Mr Kenny spent his time listening to what might be done to break this cycle of crime and drug-related feuding. That approach is likely to persist when he meets elected local representatives on Monday.

A social and economic task force has been proposed to devise structures to deal with policing, housing, education and welfare, and to advise on strategic investment in small local projects. Though it would be easy to be cynical, such an approach represents the only sensible way forward and Mr Kenny’s commitment to have the work coordinated within his Department is encouraging.

Unfortunately, we have been here before. Thirty-four years ago, the late Tony Gregory, Independent TD for Dublin Central, agreed to support Charles Haughey for taoiseach in return for State investment in housing and jobs in his badly neglected constituency.

Mr Gregory was active in campaigning against a rapidly growing heroin problem, controlled by a Crumlin gang, and he proposed the establishment of what became known as the Criminal Assets Bureau. Within a year of the ‘Gregory Deal’ being struck, the Fianna Fáil government fell. Promised investment went with it.

The more deprived a community, the less official attention and investment it receives until rising levels of crime and public anger demand a response. This happened in Limerick where drug gangs made life unbearable for some residents.

It has been a persistent scourge in Dublin, in parts of Cork and in other cities where under-funding and social neglect have facilitated the growth of drug gangs and a breakdown in social cohesion. Polydrug use has replaced heroin.

A solution does not involve rocket science. It requires investment in jobs, education, housing, policing, drug treatment and community facilities. The medicine should not be limited to Dublin.

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