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'Amazing things happen in this community. Ballymun is about the people not the crime'

Locals are fighting back against a negative reputation which they say is unfair.

The scene of a shooting in Ballymun on Wednesday.
The scene of a shooting in Ballymun on Wednesday.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

LOCALS IN BALLYMUN have expressed concerns that Wednesday’s double murder may tarnish the area’s improving reputation, but insisted that the community is too strong to let that happen.

At the scene of the crime on Balbutcher Drive, where mother of six Antoinette Corbally and Clinton Shannon were shot dead, members of the community gathered around the crime scene tape. They saw Antoinette’s pregnant niece Andrea covered in blood. She managed to escape physically unharmed by the machine gun attack.

Garda armed support units had been tracking the intended target of the murder – convicted criminal Derek Devoy, who had recently been told his life was at risk. Devoy managed to escape the gunmen – his sister, Corbally, died from gunshot injuries she sustained.

For all the garda armed units patrolling the area, however, locals said there were only so many attempted murders the officers were able to stop.

Community gardaí, described by local representatives as the “eyes and ears” of the streets in Ballymun, have had their resources cut by over half.

In 2011, there were 15 community gardaí – compared to just six in 2016.

Councillor Noeleen Reilly said that tensions in the area had heightened in recent months, and an incident of this nature was expected. However, she said the extent of the violence could not have been anticipated.

“Nobody is talking about the community policing levels,” the Sinn Féin councillor said.

“I can’t remember the last time I saw a garda walking around Ballymun. I’m not here to slag off the gardaí. They’re up to their eyes and they do the best with the resources they have.

But we could sense things escalating. There was a tension.

Like Reilly, locals fear that the double murder on Balbutcher Drive will destroy the ever-improving reputation the area has been fostering since the Ballymun regeneration project began over a decade ago.

June 5 ballymun 20050004 One of the Ballymun towers before demolition. Source: Flickr/Darren Hall

Mark O’Brien is the CEO of the Axis arts centre in Ballymun. He has been working with the community for over 12 years and says he hopes the terrible events of Wednesday do not lead to locals being tarred with the same brush as the killers.

“Before you rang, there was a Nigerian festival happening with four different drum troupes going by. If you juxtapose that with what we’re talking about you can see that there is so much more to a community than the bad things that happen in it,” he said.

Ballymun has long been trying to shake off the reputation of a an area destroyed by drug addiction. The seven tower blocks in the area became synonymous with heroin addiction and deprivation in the 80s before the final one was torn down in 2015.

Many people from outside Ballymun believe that when negative or violent events occur in the area, it’s par for the course, O’Brien said.

When something happens in Ballymun, it has a louder resonance and that is not necessarily deserved. I think to be honest that reputation is foisted on the community rather than earned.
So many amazing things happen in this community. Ballymun is all about the people not the crime. That’s the way I look at it.

But for now, the worry for the area is of a retaliation for the murder of two people on Wednesday. Locals don’t want to see an emulation of the Hutch-Kinahan feud which has turned the north inner city into a warzone, according to Reilly.

The councillor said there is a real concern that Ballymun is going to be dragged back two decades.

“There is so much positive stuff happening here but people are worried they are being dragged back. The road next to the road where the shooting happened had been nominated for a Pride of Place award – a national award.

There is a fear that this is not the last of this, that there’s more to come and that this won’t stop. People are frightened, for sure. We’re crying out for more resources.

Read: Intended target of Ballymun shooting had been warned of threat to his life >

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