Sunday 25 February 2018

'One incident like this and the area is back down on its knees... but this isn't the real Ballymun'

Pat Kavanagh and Sandra Forbes. Photo: Mark Condren
Pat Kavanagh and Sandra Forbes. Photo: Mark Condren

Nicola Anderson in Ballymun

An elderly woman recounted how she had come back from the hairdressers to see a crowd gathered near her home after the shooting.

"I thought my heart would come out of my chest," she said, before a middle-aged man with tattooed arms called her warningly by name and mimed zipping up his lips.

Wary and on high alert, the people of Ballymun believe reprisals following this double gangland murder are inevitable.

"Innocent lives were lost - people that had nothing to do with this at all," declared one neighbour.

Mother-of-six Antoinette Corbally-Devoy (48) was described by locals as a "very quiet" woman who would "do no harm to anyone".

Believed to have been separated from her husband for many years, she had lived close to her mother Nancy, who was taken to hospital by ambulance last week due to heart trouble.

The other victim, Clinton Shannon (30), was a locksmith with a clean record.

At the market in the middle of Ballymun, the teenage daughter of one trader told how she had been close to the scene with other children when the shooting happened.

"We thought it was fireworks," she said, shaking her head in bewilderment.

"It still hasn't sunk in what she heard," said her mother grimly, who will not now let her daughter go anywhere on her own "apart from her cousin's house".

An old established area with little trouble in the past, Balbutcher Drive was the last place anyone might have expected trouble like this, explained local councillor Noeleen Reilly of Sinn Féin.

Across the road, new modular houses have sprung up for once homeless families, who have been given the chance of an optimistic future for their children.

However, she revealed locals had been "very afraid even before this happened".

"There had been a sense of tension building," she said.

"A number of tit-for-tat shootings and pipe bombs found... you could feel a sense of something that was possible," she said.

Most of all, perhaps, the people here are weary of their area's poor reputation which, despite all the positivity on the ground, is proving so difficult to shake off.

"One incident like this and Ballymun is right back down on its knees," said Sandra Forbes, project and HR manager at the Ballymun Job Centre.

She admitted deep frustration at the tarring of the whole community when "shootings like this can happen anywhere in Dublin".

She and career guidance officer Pat Kavanagh tell of a different Ballymun than the one which only makes the headlines when tragedies happen. Since the regeneration project began, the atmosphere in the area is palpably better, they say.

Children are staying in school longer and availing of third-level education, with local hero Dublin footballer Philly McMahon helping out with motivational talks, said Ms Kavanagh.

Disadvantaged adults from three generations of unemployment are turning their lives around by availing of training.

JP Morgan has given Ballymun Job Centre funds for a youth training programme, which starts in the next few weeks.

"Every morning at rush hour, the buses in Ballymun are full of people going to work," Ms Forbes insisted.

"This is the real Ballymun."

Irish Independent

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