Saturday 20 July 2019

No vision, no strategy, no money: why Dublin is a haven for violent gangs

Gardaí at the scene of the fatal shooting of Gareth Hutch in Dublin city centre on Tuesday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Gardaí at the scene of the fatal shooting of Gareth Hutch in Dublin city centre on Tuesday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Eddie Molloy

Eddie Molloy

Just before last Christmas, the CEO of the HSE, Tony O'Brien, said "there is no shared vision of the health service" and some days later, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny commented "and that's why so many efforts at reform are haphazard".

The recurring problems in our health service, together with the housing crisis, our dilapidated water infrastructure and the latest headline-grabbing story - a spate of gangland murders in Dublin city centre - have one thing in common: they reflect the lack of long-term thinking and planning in our political system, which is driven by short-term opportunism with an eye to the next election.

Also true of these and other seemingly intractable problems is that they didn't have to come about; they could have been prevented.

Shamefully, we have had the money but lacked the political will and administrative capacity to foresee the inevitability of these crises unless timely preventive action was taken.

A good example of such strategic thinking that is relevant to the current plight of inner-city Dublin was the initiative launched back in 1995 by the late John F Daly as president of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, to craft an imaginative, comprehensive, coherent vision of Dublin in 2010, 15 years into the future.

Six working parties involving 50 leaders from every sector, business, academia, the civil service and community activism, were set the task of painting a picture of Dublin under the headings of Enterprise, Investment and Employment; Tourism; Transport; Environment, Built and Natural; Quality of Life; and Crime and Security.

Over a 12-month period, the teams met regularly to examine the presenting situation, to articulate a detailed 2010 vision and to name the key initiatives required to achieve the vision.

They were also asked to name the "critical success factors" - those enabling structures and other conditions that would have to be put in place if the vision was ever to get up off the page and become a reality. The vision for Quality of Life is particularly relevant in the current context: "By 2010, Dublin will be a healthy city with a drug-free culture. Social exclusion and marginalisation will be alleviated and the capital will enjoy improved educational standards, particularly in deprived areas. The problem of the poverty trap will effectively be tackled and job discrimination removed."

Of the many comments and contributions made throughout these deliberations, the one that stuck in my mind was a remark by Pat Molloy, then CEO of the Bank of Ireland, at the launch in 1997 of the finished document, '2010: A Vision of Dublin'.

He said: "You know we have the capacity to put an end to the poverty ghettos in Dublin if we set our minds to it. We know what needs to be done."

The root of the drugs and associated violent crime epidemic in Dublin is poverty and disadvantage.

A recent newspaper article pleaded that lands owned by the State in a deprived area of Dublin 8 would be made available as playing fields for young people, but all the signs suggest that the land will be used for housing, even though it is the most densely populated square mile in the country.

True to form, the Opposition are up on their feet in the Dáil demanding "more gardaí on the streets to prevent these murders".

However, the answer is not just more gardaí and a drugs task force, or any other kind of task force for the inner city, as now promised by the Government.

We have had numerous such initiatives in the past but we are no nearer a solution than we were 20 years ago.

The "critical success factor" continues to be set out in the Chamber's 2010 Vision: "To harness the resources of the city and to implement the vision outlined in this report, it is vital that business, civic and community leaders work hand in hand.

"A strong compelling vision is one way of focusing minds and pulling all the players together. A streamlined structure of city governance will be necessary.

"This will require a strong well-resourced government for Dublin."

As with our health service, there is no vision of Dublin that comprehensively addresses the city's poverty ghettos; there is no strategy to achieve such a vision; there is no multi-year budget to fund the strategy; and there is no agency with the necessary authority and competence to implement it.

And that is why so many of our efforts to deal with the problem will be haphazard, and will fail.

Eddie Molloy is a management consultant. He designed and facilitated the process described in this article

Irish Independent

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