Without proper attention and investment, we’ll fail it again.
At last, Kieran Mulvey’s much-anticipated report into Dublin's north east inner city will finally be released alongside a set of recommendations - many of which have already made headlines - next week.
The real problem is that locals have already had more than their share of reports and action plans and false dawns. They’ve heard it all before. They’ve seen politicians scrambling over each other after gangland murders, telling people their voices will be heard, their neighbourhoods regenerated and the scourge of drugs finally driven out.
The first thing that Mr Mulvey’s report should do is accept that we, as a nation, have failed this central part of our capital time after time after time.
We’ve been all too happy to laugh at jokes about ‘junkies’ and ‘knackers’ and ‘scumbags’. We’ve been all too happy to advise tourists not to walk across the Ha’penny Bridge after dark or, best of all, to ignore the north side altogether if they’re visiting.
We’ve been all too happy to allow ourselves to seize up a little and let our pace quicken as we get towards the northern end of O’Connell Street. We’ve been all too happy to lap up lifestyle blogs posting restaurant reviews likening the north side to the Gaza Strip, hammering kids for swimming in the Docks in summer and scoffing that the ‘crime rates plunge when they’re all busy having their annual wash’.
I’ve seen a lot of people protesting outside the US Embassy over the past week, as is their right, where are the protests about what we’ve done to North Dublin?
Where were you when the north inner City was written off? Where were you when grandparents were forced to raise their young grandchildren because their own sons and daughters couldn’t because of addiction, or worse, death? Where’s your outrage when families in the city that drives our economy are living six to a room in a damp and crumbling flat where there’s not nearly enough room to breathe never mind drag yourself through an education system which is stacked against you from the off?
When Mulvey met with residents during the week to outline, in broad strokes, what his recommendations will be, he was met with a healthy degree of scepticism.
Ideas like ‘rebranding and renaming’ the north east inner city might seem like a good idea given the negative connotations ourselves in the media and the wider public have given it over the years, but in isolation, it won’t achieve a thing.
He made some very valid points, to warm applause, about increasing community policing, expunging criminal records once people reach the age of 25.
The latter is a radical step, and would not be introduced without a great deal of political bravery to say the least, but there is a far more fundamental barrier in the way of the rejuvenation of the inner city and that’s prejudice.
There is a feeling among locals that the big IFSC firms and the tech companies across the Liffey in the Silicon Docks haven’t provided any jobs locally. Hell, even the Public Expenditure Minister knows it.
What exists instead is this incredibly stark contrast between glass-fronted architecture, luxury apartments and extreme wealth and an area that has been neglected for far too long.
At Kieran Mulvey’s meeting, a lot of people found themselves fired up and nodding along in admiration at the input from local man Paul McKeown.
Paul, who’s a young man from the area, spoke about growing up in poverty and the push he got from his father to strive for education and how he earned a Master’s degree and became fluent in Portuguese. That should be more than enough to secure gainful employment in the high tech services sector along the Liffey? Not so, he found.
We’ve allowed an environment to fester in Ireland where people feel they have to ‘change their accents’ like Paul or change their address on their applications. If that doesn’t make you ashamed of the society we’ve created, I don’t know what will. It seems to me like socio-economic status is the last socially accepted form of discrimination in this country.
The north east inner city isn’t looking for a handout and it certainly isn’t looking for your pity. It’s looking for the same opportunities afforded to everywhere else in this country.
I applaud Kieran Mulvey for pushing his report and, if followed through, it could bring about the start of a change that will finally bring justice for locals.
So say it with me, ‘we have failed Dublin’s north east inner city’... Without proper attention and investment, we’ll fail it again.