Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Community Safety and Investment: Motion [Private Members]


10:30 am

Photo of Annie HoeyAnnie Hoey (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister for coming to the House. I note the recent formation of the Ballymun implementation board, which will tackle some of the deep-rooted issues that exist in Ballymun and bring together relevant social service providers and An Garda Síochána. It is based on the Drogheda model. It is a real example of how communities and gardaí can work together towards improving safety. I do not need to go through all of the figures again as they have already been gone through. We know the shortage of gardaí and the lack of gardaí has had a knock-on effect on wider society and communities have not felt safe due to the decreasing number of gardaí. The issue of adequate community policing constantly comes up when I knock on doors in north-west Dublin. It is imperative that we properly resource community safety partnerships and enable them to fulfil their potential and intent. Without adequate supports the partnerships cannot effectively address the complex challenges facing our neighbourhoods.

When I think of communities and the work that can be done I think of the response we had in Ballymun when bad actors were seeking to divide our community. They were using racism as a scapegoat when that anger should have been directed at decades of a shortage of investment. We drive through Ballymun every day and there is an empty plot where there should be a shopping centre. There is a big greenfield site where there should be housing. People were trying to take advantage of a lack of opportunity and a lack of what they felt were resources to divide the community. Ballymun people came together, including community workers and the Easy Street team, to show that Ballymun is a welcoming community. Things have been built up very well with youth diversion programmes. We know that early intervention is key in breaking the cycle of youth offending and fostering positive outcomes.

There are other areas beyond the scope of the motion that I would love to see the Government look at. These include hate speech. I feel like time is ticking on the Government to finish out the Bill. I get the feeling it will not happen. There should also be decriminalisation of the drug user. This is something that particularly comes up in Ballymun, Finglas and north-west Dublin. People do not believe the user should be criminalised. It should be the person who is selling the drugs and affecting their lives.

I want to speak about a good example of a community initiative between gardaí and young people. Better Ballymun day is on Friday. It is an idea that has been developed by students of Trinity Comprehensive secondary school in the heart of Ballymun. It is to mobilise local clubs, community groups, organisations and companies to take part in a day of action that shows the strength of Ballymun when Ballymun people come together. It is being led by the much-maligned young people of Ballymun. This is active citizenship and an example of what happens when young people are supported, resources are given to them and they can work with their community and An Garda Síochána.


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