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'People are afraid, people are anxious': Former Assistant Garda Commissioner sets out roadmap for Darndale's future

Jack Nolan’s report examining Darndale in North Dublin will be published in May.

Image: GoogleMaps

“PEOPLE IN DARNDALE are afraid after what’s happened”, says former Assistant Garda Commissioner Jack Nolan. “But they’re also conscious of huge support being provided.”

Last year, criminal violence claimed the lives of five men in North Dublin, which in recent weeks has seen a criminal feud in Drogheda spill over into its neighbourhood. 

In the absence of a co-ordinated State response, Dublin City Council has tasked Nolan with drawing up a report on the current demographic, crime statistics and community services as well as developing a plan to address issues in Darndale over the next three years. 

It is, Nolan told TheJournal.ie, a taskforce similar to 2017′s Mulvey Report which was aimed at regenerating Dublin’s north-east inner city. 

‘Radical Approach’ 

Darndale, Coolock and surrounding estates have seen an increase in violence over the past two years.

Nolan’s report is not directly linked with the most recent violence in North Dublin this week and the brutal killing of 17-year-old Keane Mulready-Woods. 

Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland called on the Council to act after the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Eoin Boylan on Clonshaugh Avenue in November last year. 

The Moatview area, off Clonshaugh Avenue in Coolock, has seen a particular increase in violence. It is a part of Coolock controlled by serious criminals who Gardaí have been investigating for five years. 

The current feud has claimed the lives of five men – four of whom were in their 20s. 

In June 2019, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan visited Coolock Garda Station after Hamid Sanambar (41) was shot dead in May. 

The week before Sanambar’s killing, Seán Little (22) was found dead in Ballbriggan in North Dublin and Jordan Davis (22) was shot dead in Darndale. 

The idea behind Nolan’s ‘Darndale Socio-Economic and Community Plan’ originated when Dublin City Council realised central government had no plans to act in tackling deprivation and violence in North Dublin. 

At the moment, Council Assistant Chief Executive Brendan Kenny told TheJournal.ie, a coordinated State approach is absent. 

“Yet at the end of the day co-ordination’s not enough,” he said. “You need something more radical.”

‘Focused Approach’

Last week, Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin called on the government to implement an area-wide taskforce, similar to 2017′s Mulvey Report and the North Inner City Coalition. 

The Mulvey Report was commissioned in July 2016 in the wake of killings in the city centre as the Hutch-Kinahan feud erupted. 

At the time, Taoiseach Enda Kenny made a commitment towards a full regeneration of north-inner city Dublin – a model Nolan favours. 

When violence erupts between criminals, a response from An Garda Siochána follows, Nolan says. That response often “puts a cap” on it. 

Take the Hutch-Kinahan Feud [in 2016], said Nolan. “Most of its key players in Ireland are in custody. 

“The issue I see? It’s the causes of crime.

“We need to be focusing on [them],” said Nolan. “The potential criminals of the future… How are they dealt with within this system so we don’t encourage or educate people into criminality. We educate them into a better way of living for betterment of all the people of Dublin.”

At present, Gardaí remain heavily embedded in the Darndale community, acting as a community support. 

“A lot of people talk about gangs. It’s a tiny percentage of Ireland’s youth engaged in crime,” says Nolan. “Yet it’s that small percentage that needs particular focus, one-on-one attention, bespoke programmes.”

‘Problem People’

There are nearly 900 houses in Darndale, a community of 3,000 people. 

Despite then-Dublin Corporation’s aim of achieving a social mix in the 1970s “it doesn’t appear to have worked,” said Nolan. 

“There’s a lot of poverty in the area. There’s a lot of single-parent homes,” he said. “People are really anxious for support, help and ideas for how to make this area better.”

There are a large number of social and community services in Darndale, according to Nolan. “There’s a large number of community workers… who want to make this area better.”

There is also “an appetite” for increased Garda presence, said Nolan, adding that others in Darndale don’t want to see Gardaí in their area.

“But they’re a small cohort,” he said. 

With “problem people” remaining in Darndale, said Nolan, a major question is how to steer young people in North Dublin away from criminality. 

Nolan, therefore, is taking a “holistic” approach to his work, examining services available in Darndale to children as young as 5. 

He plans to examine its community under the following categories: population, age profile, education, income levels, employment and crime statistics. 

Nolan is currently carrying out a profile of Darndale’s level of services too, including existing statutory, community and voluntary groups. 

In May, Nolan will publish his report which will recommend improvements to Darndale’s services, Gardaí response and identify “pathways to improve life chances of young individuals,” Nolan says.

A public engagement process with stakeholders working and living in the area to gather opinions of local people and community groups will be key, he added. 

“Crime in any area is subject to criminal research and debate. The causes of crime are, generally, deprivation, lack of education, poor housing,” he said. 

The actuality of crime is another issue. Crime happens either out of desperation or potential for making money.

The profits to be made from drugs in Ireland, meanwhile, are “immeasurable”, he said. 

“We’ve seen residue of this in Dublin’s north-east inner city, in the west of the city… People fight, argue and kill for control of the drugs trade in Ireland. That’s a fact of life, not just in Dublin City but in every city in Europe.”

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