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30 Nov - members of the public at a candlelit vigil at the Spire on O'Connell Street after the riots of 23 Nov.

Local councillor Dublin's inner city needs hard work, not political games

Janet Horner says more must now be done for the area following the riots last month.

SO MANY PEOPLE in our Dublin inner city community have been profoundly shocked by the events of the last few weeks. There has been plenty of political jockeying on where the blame lies, who should’ve seen it coming and who could have prevented it.

There is certainly an important role for analysis, but right now as a community, we have to deal with the tragedy of the injured and traumatised children and their childcare worker. We also have traumatised witnesses, a scared, hurting and variously traumatised school community on Parnell Street and in the wider city, most especially among our minority communities. Then there is the damaged city economy and reputation.

It is therefore timely for those of us living and working in the inner city, working here, raising children here and loving here to get real about how we can make things better. A gaping hole in the fabric of our society became visible last week, and rather than deflecting blame or playing politics, we must focus on the work that needs to be done. There is no silver bullet here, just a will to address some deeply complex and intractable issues in Dublin and our nation.

Tackling the issues

Though last month’s events had complex origins, the first recourse is policing. The North inner city has been trialling the Local Community Safety Partnership (LCSP) over the past two years. It is a multi-agency and stakeholder approach to improving safety and outcomes for all communities in the inner city.

The model works… to a certain extent but we can’t police our way out of the tinderbox created by young people with nothing to lose, social marginalisation, misinformation networks, addiction and the scapegoating of migrants.

We need a multi-agency and cross-community approach for that, and the LCSP is the only show in town in that regard in the North inner city. But it needs political buy-in, proper resourcing and a real programme of action, which it is currently sorely lacking. The current iteration of the LCSP is also far too “top-down” — it needs to be remodelled according to best practices of what community development should be — we need empowered local communities, equipped to show leadership and find solutions at the grassroots level first and foremost.

Part of the policing response is also a wider acceptance of the national, indeed global, pervasive power of hate and racism. There is so much inaccurate and hateful content out there, particularly on social media, seeking to scapegoat migrants and people of colour and different faiths. People spreading malicious, dangerous and knowingly false information about others which presents a genuine risk to others’ safety, freedoms and equality should face serious consequences.

Social media companies also need to be compelled to play their part in stopping platforming and profiting from hateful and dangerous messaging

We must also look at how we deliver and support youth, community and mental health services in this state, including access to funds. Currently, the process is becoming increasingly onerous and seriously detracts from the efficacy of NGOs – eroding their crucial time to work on their mission instead of filling in funding applications and reports. The precariousness of annual funding also damages policy development and staff retention — something multiannual funding would solve.

Support networks

There are a range of brilliant sports clubs, dance teams and arts projects across the city that give children and young people a sense of belonging, purpose and value for their skills and talents. These clubs are a lifeline for many but they struggle to get the resources that they need between access to sports halls, pitches, venues and money to upgrade basic infrastructure as required.

Where rural communities often have small GAA clubs with a pitch to themselves, in the North inner city many clubs rely on sharing the local park used as pitches. A significant programme to expand access to these amenities would hugely benefit the population.

The North inner city also carries the majority of emergency accommodation for the county of Dublin — often without the resources or a long-term plan for how to bring people out of homelessness or support them with their needs. The cost of homeless provision is increasing year-on-year and there are many private landlords doing very well through this provision. But we need to be spending more on the people impacted by homelessness instead of on those profiting from it.

Most especially this should be directed towards housing first tenancies and supporting people to find a long-term, stable route out of homelessness, ideally through social housing. We also must implement the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs to ensure a health-led, local approach to drug abuse. That includes a move away from a system where people must travel into the city centre to receive the support they should get closer to home.


Even those with a stable home in Dublin sometimes struggle to feel secure. Much of the North inner city social housing is cold, damp, outdated and ill-equipped, awaiting regeneration that takes decades longer than it should.

For communities feeling left behind, investing in housing quality to the basic minimum standards enjoyed by most private homeowners and many renters should be done in the interim while long-term regeneration projects are developed.

The backdrop to the riots of 23 November was Parnell Street, suffering dereliction for a long time. The buildings of 77 and 78 Parnell Street are on the Derelict Sites Register meaning the Council can seek to acquire them. Numbers 86, 88, 92, 93 and 94 are also under investigation by the Council. All of these can and should be revived as soon as possible. The process of acquiring these kinds of properties and turning them around to save our streetscapes from the blight of dereliction takes far too long. We need a streamlined process for compulsory purchase orders and to act against building owners who allow dereliction and disuse to take hold.

The sense of neglect in the inner city is compounded by the prevalence of litter and waste on the streets and the lack of care in the public realm. What works in the suburbs in terms of waste collection and litter disposal simply doesn’t work in the inner city.

Short-term tenancies, rogue landlords, reliance on bags instead of wheelie bins, seagulls and an overstretched Council staff team all combine to result in dirty, unhygienic and hazardous footpaths and public space.

The Greening projects in the North East Inner City (NEIC) and Stoneybatter are part of the solution — so is a refreshed approach to enforcement — including cracking down on rogue landlords who encourage tenants to dump and increasing the powers of the Council to effectively pursue those responsible.

There are several major flagship projects for the North inner city that we can focus on as positive for the future. The Parnell Cultural Quarter, the Moore Street regeneration and historic monument, the Victorian Fruit and Vegetable markets — all of these have taken years/decades longer than they should have to turn around. The state and the Council need to do more than announce a funding allocation and then sit on it for years at a time. We need to move these projects along and breathe life into the city centre spaces again. Other spaces include the Ambassador Theatre, DLight Studios and the ground floor of Dominick Street redevelopment. With the right support, these could bring back a thriving cultural and pro-social nightlife to the North inner city.

Dublin’s inner city is an incredible place to live. We’re profoundly shocked, but we’re still holding on to hope and there is much work to do.

Janet Horner is a Green Party Councillor for Dublin’s North inner city since 2019. She sits on the Local Community Safety Partnership, the citywide JPC and works closely alongside numerous community groups.