herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Inner city locals are 'disgusted' by lack of support, Kenny told

Taoiseach Enda Kenny greets local Kathleen Pickett on arrival Picture: Caroline Quinn
Taoiseach Enda Kenny greets local Kathleen Pickett on arrival Picture: Caroline Quinn

The impact of the ongoing gangland feud on children in the north inner city topped the agenda at a meeting between local residents and Enda Kenny.

The Herald can reveal details of the issues raised with the Taoiseach and six Government ministers at the private meeting in a local school on Tuesday.

The ripple effect that the recent violence has been having on the community - particularly on elderly people and children - was raised by several speakers.

Mr Kenny was told that the community is living in fear and has been "devastated" by the ongoing gang war and the circumstances which led to it, including cuts to funding for vital local programs.

Improve

One woman is understood to have told the Fine Gael leader that she was "disgusted" by the lack of Government support for the community as they work to improve the area.

The meeting, labelled a "listening exercise" and a "fact-finding mission" by the Government, was described as a "circus" by local politicians.

A long list of concerns was brought to the attention of the senior politicians, including policing issues, education and funding cuts for community programmes.

Chief Superintendent Pat Leahy of Store Street addressed the meeting and described the gang feud as an "external shock" which has caused the low murder rates in the area since 2008 to spike again.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told the meeting that she had met with some gardai from the community and learned about the good relationship officers have with locals.

She said her main concern was that the gardai were fully resourced to tackle the crime issues in the area.

An appeal was made for a well-funded therapeutic intervention for children who were traumatised by the recent shootings and related incidents in the community.

One school principal told the Taoiseach that their school is faced with a number of challenges - including open drug-dealing on the street outside and burnt-out cars abandoned in the area.

Recently, a man tried to push his way into the school.

A school in the area also had children outside playing in the yard when innocent man Martin O'Rourke was gunned down in April.

One mum said that afterwards her nine-year-old daughter was too afraid to walk home from school alone anymore, something she used to do all the regularly.

The cuts to community employment schemes were an especially sore point for a number of people who spoke at the meeting.

People, particularly lone parents, benefited from the scheme because they often had childcare included, the meeting heard.

The Taoiseach has been invited to visit some of the community projects that are run in the area to see their work first-hand.

On Monday he will return to the north inner city to meet with local politicians before the terms of reference for the inner city task force are announced.

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