Wednesday 21 March 2018

Kenny pledges €1.6m to boost 'great spirit' of inner city community

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Steve Humphreys

You wait a century or more for even fleeting attention from the political higher-ups. And then suddenly the heads of government descend upon you in their droves - not once but twice.

The people of Dublin's north inner city - scene of seven brutal murders in recent months - could be forgiven for being a little mystified yesterday.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny strode towards St Laurence O'Toole's School in Seville Place shortly after 4pm. It was the second very public visit by the Taoiseach and a veritable tribe of ministers in just five weeks.

This time Mr Kenny's hands were very definitely not "hanging". He had come bearing taxpayer funds for immediate disbursal and he was more than keen to register presence.

The Taoiseach stopped at the A&D Stores and reached out his hand to residents who stood in their gardens taking the sun, and who greeted him courteously, if a little diffidently.

The St Laurence O'Toole's school door was decorated with a list of its high-achieving pupils: the best Irish scholar, the best English scholar, the best at IT. Their scholars' pride shone like a beacon as journalists and locals waited outside for the outcome of a meeting between Mr Kenny's six-member government team.

Just after 5pm, Mr Kenny emerged and confirmed that a total €1.6m investment package would happen before the year 2016 was out.

At the same time, work would begin on re-opening Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station, closed in 2013 on grounds of health and safety, due to problems with the building.

Mr Kenny said he will personally chair a ministerial taskforce to support the long-term economic and social regeneration of the area.

Standing at his side was the Workplace Relations Commission chairman Kieran Mulvey, appointed to prepare a report on the area by the end of November. The funding package breaks down as follows:

n €1m investment in sports facilities and projects in the area - to be made available for the duration of 2016.

n €500,000 for small-scale local projects, including clean-up of graffiti, derelict sites and litter, along with community and youth projects.

n €100,000 extra for anti-drug projects in the area.

There will also be investment in arts-related projects, and new initiatives to support schools and young people in the northeast inner city.

The Taoiseach was insistent that there was great community spirit in the area. He said the majority of people "would give you the shirt off their backs".

He had visited the area a number of times and listened carefully to the views of residents and groups.

"It was clear to me that a significant amount of great work is being done in this area with the dedication and great spirit of the local community," the Taoiseach said.

"However, the northeast inner city faces profound challenges, despite the great efforts and strengths of so many people."

The taskforce will focus on a time-frame of some 10 years.

"In the shorter term, I am delighted to announce some projects that will offer supports and improve opportunity.

"I remain personally committed to this initiative and I intend to keep visiting the area myself," the Taoiseach said.

St Laurence O'Toole's school, in Seville Place, is only a 20-minute walk from Government Buildings and Leinster House.

Sometimes it seems to be a whole world away.

Irish Independent

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