Saturday 20 January 2018

Psychologists visit schools as children in shock over gangland war

Gardai at the scene of the latest killing, inset the CCTV footage
Gardaí at the scene of the latest gangland killing at Avondale House in inner city Dublin. Photo: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Psychologists have been drafted in to Dublin north inner city schools to advise teachers on how to support children living in terror amid the escalating gang war.

With a series of gun murders in recent months and armed gardaí patrolling the streets, fears have been raised that children are at risk of being traumatised as the murderous Kinahan/Hutch feud continues.

Now can reveal that psychological services staff from the Department of Education have visited schools in the area. The move to offer support to local children and their parents was confirmed to Dublin Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan.

She said the community was living in fear, not knowing when the next act of violence would occur.

"This is what the kids are facing every day - 'Is there going to be another shooting?' That can't become normality," she said.

The Independent TD told how she asked Education Minister Richard Bruton if extra counselling was being provided for school students in the area. He confirmed that staff from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) had attended schools to offer advice to teachers.

Gareth Hutch, who was shot dead in Dublin on Tuesday
Gareth Hutch, who was shot dead in Dublin on Tuesday

School staff have been told to maintain a "safe, secure and calm" environment, Mr Bruton said.

They have been given advice on "how to deal with the traumatic effects on the pupils" and on how to be "vigilant" in identifying these effects so children requiring referral for counselling can be identified.

Teachers have also been told how they can advise parents on "destressing and rationalising the situation for their children".

Mr Bruton said that NEPS has consulted with local children's and young people's services to "support a cross-agency co-ordinated response".

He said Tusla, the HSE and other voluntary agencies were also involved.

Mr Bruton said it would not be appropriate to identify the schools that had received the visits, but assured Ms O'Sullivan that support was available to any school that needed it.

Ms O'Sullivan said she had spoken to parents and grandparents who told of the upset the ongoing violence is causing children in the area.

"My fear is that this becomes normality for them and that they will pass by a shooting and think, 'Ah, sure that's what happens around here'. This is not normal life and we should not have to face this," she added.

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne also spoke last night of his concern that school children "are particularly vulnerable to psychological trauma as a result of this extreme violence". He said he has also written to Mr Bruton to ask him to ensure special supports are in place to help local children.

Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin - who was a school principal at a Sheriff Street school before entering politics - said that an "all-government response" was needed to combat the violence. "We must not allow the situation to deteriorate any further. We cannot afford to allow these kinds of acts of violence and murder to become normalised in any part of our society."

Irish Independent

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