Thursday 29 September 2016

Youth programme 'got me out of trouble and off drugs' - teen tells of success from garda service

Paul Healy

Published 14/05/2015 | 21:31

Matthew O Connor pictured with Youth Justice Worker Aine Lambe from the Kerry Diocesan Youth Service and Juvenile Liaison Officer Garda Tim O Connell Pic Frank Mc Grath
Matthew O Connor pictured with Youth Justice Worker Aine Lambe from the Kerry Diocesan Youth Service and Juvenile Liaison Officer Garda Tim O Connell Pic Frank Mc Grath
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald pictured with Matthew O Connor and Youth Justice Worker Aine Lambe Pic Frank Mc Grath

A young man has spoken candidly about how a Garda initiated youth programme got him “out of trouble” and off drugs.

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Matthew O’Connor (17) from Tralee, Co Kerry was taken in under the ‘Kerry empowering Youth’ (KEY) service, where he was given one to one meetings to discuss his issues.

Mr O’Connor does not attend school and admits that he had gotten into some trouble, but the service gave him the confidence to go out and get a job in the construction sector.

“It’s kept a lot of people I know and me out of trouble “, he told Indpendent.ie.

“It’s just been a great help to young people and I’d recommend it to anyone that would be in need of it.

Matthew was given the new services unique one-to-one discussion with a youth worker, which he says was a much better way of talking through issues than group sessions.

 “I was a very big troublemaker, I was in a lot of trouble at one stage, abusing drugs and a lot of different things”, he said.

“They supported us through it and they kept us off the streets, and it might have just been for two hours at a time but it was a great help to a lot of people”.

In 2013, the Kerry Diocesan Youth Service delivered six Garda Youth Diversion Projects across the country and developed the KEY project alongside the Kerry Divisional Garda Management, local Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers and youth justice workers.

“From our point of view it would make sense to expand this into other divisions because it works and it works simple”, Inspector Tony Sugrue of the Kerry Divisional Garda said.

The service has already reached more than one hundred young people.

The success of the KEY service has prompted Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to put forward a further trial in Cork.

 “The new service is the first of its kind in the country and highlights the benefits of different organisations both community based like the KDYS and the statutory bodies like the Gardaí and the Irish Youth Justice Woking together to benefit young people”, she said.

The Minister also said that the success of the model would mean her Department would look at initiating the service across the country.

Just under €17m has been allocated to IYJS Community Programmes in 2015, while just over €11m has been allocated to deliver the Garda Youth Diversion Projects.

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