Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Question 15 - North-East Inner City Initiative [18902/23].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Question 15 - North-East Inner City Initiative [18902/23]. (26 Apr 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

15. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the role of his Department in the north-east inner city initiative; and indicate if his Department has any proposals for further similar initiatives in other parts of the city, such as Ballymun and Finglas. [18902/23] 

Leo Varadkar, The Taoiseach: The Mulvey report, Dublin North East Inner City - Creating a Brighter Future, which was published in February 2017, contains recommendations for the social and economic regeneration of Dublin's north-east inner city. The report has been further supplemented by the North East Inner City strategic plan for the period 2020 to 2022. Implementation of the Mulvey report and the strategic plan is being overseen and progressed by the programme implementation board. The board meets on a monthly basis and its members include representatives from relevant Departments and State agencies, business and the local community. The board is assisted in its work by six subgroups comprised of officials from Departments and State agencies and community representatives. The subgroups look at enhanced policing; educational, training and employment opportunities; family well-being; enhancing community well-being and the physical landscape; substance use, misuse and inclusion health; and the alignment of services. 

Officials from the Department of the Taoiseach work closely with the board, the subgroups and the dedicated programme office based in Sean McDermott Street. The chairperson of the programme implementation board reports to an oversight group, chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach. Membership of the oversight group comprises senior civil servants from various Departments and State agencies who are actively engaged with the work of the initiative. This group ensures strong and active participation by all relevant Departments and State agencies and deals with any barriers or issues highlighted by the board. Following the recent resignation of the chairperson of the board, arrangements will be made for the appointment of a new chairperson and I will advise the Government of a nominee as soon as possible. In the interim, the work of the board is continuing with the support of my Department. 

The Government has recognised that disadvantaged areas require new forms of assistance in order to help them prosper. In line with the programme for Government, we are continuing to examine how the model of intervention in the north-east inner city could be extended to other comparative areas experiencing disadvantage. 

Deputy Paul McAuliffe: I thank the Taoiseach. In 2016, I wrote to him eager to ensure that we might expand the north-east inner city model to the Ballymun area, which was experiencing a significant rise in the use of crack cocaine at the time. He indicated that the solution was at local authority level. When I was Lord Mayor of Dublin City Council, I commissioned Mr. Andrew Montague to write what is a fantastic report, Ballymun: A Brighter Future. The previous Taoiseach engaged strongly with our joint policing committee and committed to funding. 

The success of the north-east inner city model is that provides access to senior officials. The co-ordinating role of agencies in an area is one of the key discoveries of the north-east inner city model. It is not always necessarily about additional funding; it can sometimes be about ensuring that funding is concentrated in areas where there is most need. It is also about structural changes such as the recruitment of senior social workers or issues around the number of gardaí being deployed. I urge the Taoiseach to put in place a measure that will extend access to a senior officials group to the Ballymun area in order that the money being allocated will be spent in the best possible way with the agencies working on the ground. Such a group would give us that framework. I understand it should be Dublin City Council that triggers it and I urge the Taoiseach to encourage it to do so. Cherry Orchard jumped the queue a little for an understandable reason. However, while Ballymun is being patient to make sure this is a sustainable model across all areas, we want to move ahead and get that group established. 

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: I agree with the broad principle of what Deputy McAuliffe said. We should have this approach in every area where there are concentrated pockets of significant disadvantage. We need a much more proactive and on-the-ground approach in order to address some of the persistent, often intergenerational problems that can be concentrated in areas of particular disadvantage. Despite what some people think about Dún Laoghaire, we certainly have significant areas of concentrated deprivation and poverty where there are real and significant problems. In response to people going on about anti-social behaviour, criminality and so on, I must say that the number of people who come to my clinic who have been caught up in drug addiction or crime at some point in their lives, and who went through the industrial schools or who were abused in residential care of one kind or another is highly disproportionate. What are the modern versions of that? We must bear in mind the impact that had and how devastating it was. The modern versions of that are children who spend years in homeless accommodation or direct provision and people living in appalling housing conditions. Imagine the resentment that creates and the trauma and damage it does to someone's psyche, and how that will impact on a community. We need a targeted, intensive, proactive approach to dealing with those situations. 

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Before rolling out this approach, the first thing that needs to happen is a review of the north-east inner city initiative. I raised this with the Taoiseach's predecessor. I have been asking for a long time that progress be measured to establish what works and what does not work. The approaches that are established to have worked should be extended as other Deputies have suggested. We must bear in mind that the initiative in the inner city does not deal with housing or the deplorable living circumstances of many of our citizens. It has not successfully addressed the fact we have a real gap in addiction services. We have a diverse population but have not got the intercultural model right. An investigation into how the initiative engages with the community is needed, and especially whether and how it fosters the necessary community development model. The boundaries of the initiative need to be examined as we have a perverse situation where part of the north-east inner city is covered by this initiative and the other part is not. That never made any sense and has caused significant local difficulties. I have raised this many times. The north-east inner city still does not have a drug and alcohol task force. It is extraordinary that in the very place where the heroin epidemic sadly first took root, it has now almost been two years that no drug and alcohol task force is operating. It is disgraceful. 

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú: I support Deputy McDonald in her point that it does not make much sense to look at this initiative unless we have a review of it. The same goes for the Drogheda implementation board and its plan. Many things are happening that I definitely support. Some of this is about streamlining the communication between agencies, but I do not think there are sufficient resources to do the business we need to do. In the past few days, parents have come to me because they are worried about their children who are in the throes of addiction and cannot access addiction services. I am constantly dealing with drug intimidation scenarios, including this week, where people who do not see themselves as having a lot of choice fall into what they think is easy money. Then usually a bigger shark runs them over. That is what we are dealing with. Turas in Dundalk has a dual diagnosis pilot it has to finish through self funding. The Family Addiction Support Network which is used by An Garda Síochána does not have sustainable funding. The Red Door Project has had some successes in getting funding but again, it does not have the multi-annual funding that is absolutely necessary. We need to get real about this. Will we have the resources in the community safety partnerships to deliver what really needs to be delivered across the board? The sooner the better. 

Leo Varadkar, The Taoiseach: I thank the Deputies for their contributions. The Deputies opposite make a valid point as regards the need to review what has been done to date. It is important that we measure progress. It is not always straightforward to measure progress in such areas, but it is important that we try to do so because what we do not measure we cannot really improve. 

By doing so, we can try to figure out what works and what does not. To be honest, more resources and staff and greater Government intervention do not always work. When they do not, we should be frank about it and decide whether it needs to be discontinued or changed in some way and if it is working, whether it needs to be enhanced an increased. Regarding the drugs and alcohol and task force, I hear what Deputy McDonald said and will come back to her about that matter. 

On the wider issue of local areas initiatives pursued by the Government, it is intended that the initiative will take in other local areas to establish the best way to consolidate the numerous interventions under way in these areas and make sure they are responsive to the real needs of local communities. It is also intended that the approach will be progressed in different settings to ensure it is sensitive to and learns from different challenges and issues experienced in local areas and communities. With this in mind, it is envisioned that the initiative will be located in urban, rural and suburban settings, all of which have distinct populations and problems. Every area is different. Discussions are ongoing with several local authorities and the Central Statistics Office about how best to identify local areas with available data sets that can be analysed. I expect that this work will be completed in the near future and the local area programme board will then be in a position to judge the alignment of intervention with local issues. 

Deputies will be aware of what is already happening in Drogheda and Cherry Orchard. Other areas being examined are Finglas and Ballymun, which Deputy McAuliffe raised. Other areas, for example, Mulhuddart, Corduff and Ladyswell, which people will understand I have an interest in, and places outside of Dublin, for example, Mahon in County Cork and Rathkeale in County Limerick are also being looked at. The list I have given is not exhaustive. 

An Cathaoirleach Gníomhach (Deputy Alan Farrell): As the first group of questions was quite extensive, I propose to facilitate Deputy Aindrias Moynihan, with the agreement of the House, with a one-minute response to his question from the Taoiseach followed by comments from the Deputy. I call the Taoiseach to answer Question No. 16, briefly.

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