Dublin’s North East Inner City (NEC) is a place of eye-watering contrasts. The affluent IFSC and Docklands sit on one side with areas that have been subjected to years of underinvestment and neglect on the other.
Eight months ago, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, took the first step, along what will be a steady path, towards changing the narrative of the north inner city. The Mulvey Report, which was published last night and which is titled ‘Creating a Brighter Future’, sets out a plan for the social and economic regeneration of the area which is home to more than 18,000 proud residents.
The Report identifies the NEIC as a vibrant place made up of distinct communities, such as Summerhill, Sean McDermott St, Sherriff Street and Ballybough, each one with their own character and personality; each one deserving of more than has been the case to date.
These communities, Mulvey says, are marked by a real sense of solidarity, with active and engaged senior citizens at the top and a focus on children and young people at their heart. I know he is right. These are the people I represent. I am very proud to do so.
These attributes are the bedrock on which to build and to grow communities of which residents can be even more proud. But if the inner city is to be transformed from run-down to downtown, we need much more than the cooperation and involvement of the local communities, which, of course, is also key to its success.
That is why the Government is committing to an additional €5 million, beyond the investment of €4.7 million that made last year, to support the implementation of the Report. This will be used to tackle crime and drugs; maximise educational and training opportunities; create an integrated system of social services and improve the physical landscape.
These goals are possible but in some cases will be hard won. In some communities drug abuse has had a stranglehold for years. To help combat this, policing resources are being increased by an additional 30 Gardaí by the end of the year. This will be expedited for the reopening of Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station and a decision has also been made to keep Rutland Street School in public ownership so that it can be developed as a hub to further bind the community together. Each of these measures will have a significant and immediate impact.
Ensuring that the distinction between areas of high and low concentration of wealth is reduced means that access to services, employment, educational and training opportunities have to be delivered. This means working with the local business community and employers to ensure they too play their part. We must also ensuring that the supports that are on offer are cohesive and not fragmented as is the case in some instances at present.
Despite our economic fortunes in years past – the highs of the Celtic Tiger and the rock bottom of the Great Recession, the lives of many in the NEIC have remained unchanged. False promises coupled with a sense of having been left behind was closely followed by an air of despondency as the employers pulled away and hope of what might be faded fast.
Clear targets and a decisive plan driven by an independent Executive Chair and Government oversight from the top, the likes of which has never been seen before for an area-based project is the commitment An Taoisech gives to the people of the NEIC. It is the commitment I, as resident and representative of Dublin Central, give too. The North East Inner City has been described as community rich in assets that is not reaching its potential. That stops here. The time is now to harness that potential so that these communities are safe places in which children can play, are inviting place through which tourists can stroll and in which jobs are being created and retained. This aim of this Report is the creation of a brighter future. That future starts now.