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Dublin flats no place for the young: Drug users in stairwells and football games on top of sheds

Amid Luas works, residents of an inner-city flat complex feel left behind.

RESIDENTS OF A Dublin flat complex say years of neglect weigh on their minds as they block Luas works in the Constitution Hill area of the city today.

Capture Source: Gary Gannon

Children and adults living in the Constitution Hill flats in Dublin 7 are protesting against plans to shut the existing entrance to the block, which they claim the Luas Cross City project failed to consult them about.

They say the reopening of an older entry point, last used over a decade ago, will prevent emergency vehicles from accessing the site – an allegation denied by council and transport authorities.

But the move is just one of a number of issues fuelling the protest, which began this morning at 6.30am.

Building work on the outskirts of the complex has been ongoing for several months as part of a multi-million euro extension of the Luas system. Local Gillian Brien said residents were frustrated after being led to believe that the flats would be redeveloped alongside the construction.

She said Dublin City Council fenced off a small play area there a number of years ago and failed to engage with locals about constructing a new, fit-for-purpose playground, despite committing to develop plans for one.

44bbcff0-fbc1-4355-b4d5-6050044e7d51 Source: Gary Gannon

Now, she said, children have resorted to playing on a spray-painted football pitch on top of a row of nearby sheds.

The demonstrators also object to the removal of gates that previously blocked non-residents from entering the complex. This has led to homeless people and drug users taking shelter in the flats’ stairwells, according to residents.

Local councillor Gary Gannon, who has been at the protest since morning, said the problem was compounded by nearby shooting galleries – unsupervised places where people congregate to take drugs – being knocked down during construction.

O’Brien said one of her daughters is studying for the Leaving Cert and fears coming home after school every day.

There were two addicts there a few weeks ago – one of them had their trousers down and the other was injecting into his groin.

“We support medically-supervised injection centres but that’s just not acceptable.”

92238051-e7a4-4040-9526-4590e8ea5d59 Source: Gary Gannon

Gannon said the demonstration was sparked not only by concerns about ongoing construction but also by the years of administrative neglect that have left the Constitution Hill flats in disrepair.

The flats here are some of the worst in the city. People are living in Dickensian conditions – it’s a concrete jungle with bars.

Dublin City Council has sought to “fob off” residents with talk of a redevelopment plan for the area but sufficient funding has not yet been made available, he said.

Meetings with residents

The council and Luas Cross City project said in a statement that the reopening of the old site entrance will have no impact on pedestrians or vehicles.

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“A comprehensive traffic management plan has been agreed which includes access for emergency vehicles,” they said.

The statement added that all individual residents were invited to discuss Luas Cross City works in July, before the current phase of the project began.

17008823716_60e14b89f0_o Source: William Murphy

Three further meetings with a residents’ group from Constitution Hill have taken place since then, including one on 1 March, spokespeople for the two authorities said.

Eight updates have also been hand-delivered through letterboxes in the complex, they said.

“A precinct improvement plan proposed in 2009 included a playground but unfortunately funding became an issue at this time,” the statement went on to say.

“Dublin City Council are looking at a deep refurbishment plan for this complex with a design team due to be appointed in September of this year.”

Read: FactCheck: Are Luas drivers really paid more than junior doctors?

Read: Inside the 139-year-old Phoenix Park tunnel opening up to rail passengers this autumn

About the author:

Catherine Healy

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