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Monday 26 September 2016

Children's future 'won't be decided in shadow of gun'

Minister Katherine Zappone with Jamie Murtagh, Jonathan Bewley and Lewis Brophy of Sheriff Street Youth Club Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Minister Katherine Zappone with Jamie Murtagh, Jonathan Bewley and Lewis Brophy of Sheriff Street Youth Club Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has said the future of communities in Dublin's north inner city "will not be decided in the shadow of a gun".

Ms Zappone wants input from young people to be taken on board by the new task force set up to try to overcome the social problems that have afflicted the area for generations.

More than 300 children are to take part in a Brighter Futures Initiative, which is based on a model used in troubled parts of South Africa.

Ms Zappone visited St Mary's Youth Club in East Wall and a soccer tournament in Sheriff Street yesterday to speak with some of the young people affected by the gang violence of recent months.

Obstacles

The minister said the plan is to allow young people to "identify what has worked well for them in the community, what have been some of the real difficulties and problems, and what are their hopes in order to make this community not only safe but one of the best places to grow up in".

However, she added that the initiatives already in place are facing serious obstacles.

"It's been very difficult for them. One of the things that really distresses me is that the parents have been afraid to let their children go into some of the programmes because of what's been going on," she said.

"In fact, the numbers are reducing in terms of what we're trying to put on offer so that they can continue to try to live normal lives.

"I hope that the emphasis the Taoiseach and many ministers is placing on this will change the dynamic that's going on here and make it a much more hopeful place to live in."

Ms Zappone said the Restorative Practice model now being adopted is internationally recognised and will seek ways to "end conflict, restore relations and build a brighter future".

It will involve a range of organisations and sectors including schools, youth services, workplaces, communities and families.

In total, €100,000 has been set aside to train adults, set up after-school supports and develop group projects.

"The time limit on this is short and necessarily so, because the young are impatient and they have every right to be so," said Ms Zappone.

It is expected that a final report on what young people in the area want will be delivered within 16 weeks, and the results will be passed directly to the North Inner City Task Force.

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