It will take more than a bit of investment to address antisocial behaviour, crime and poverty in Cherry Orchard, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said.
She was speaking as she announced a long-term strategy to address issues in the west Dublin community which has seen assaults on gardaí, open drug dealing, continual “joyriding” incidents, drug-related intimidation and residents seeking to leave the area.
Details of the Cherry Orchard Implementation Board (COIB) were outlined to community leaders and elected representatives by Ms McEntee at a meeting in the community on Thursday. The meeting followed a similar one in September held in the wake of a Garda car being rammed by a stolen car as onlookers cheered.
Ms McEntee said the board would be a similar structure to that established in Drogheda in 2018 when a drug feud engulfed part of the town with violence and intimidation.
She said the one thing she knew after the September meeting was that there was no appetite for “another plan” to be drawn up. The community and agencies knew what needed to be done. It was a question now of making things happen, she said.
“So, we have met the community, met the guards, Dublin City Council and this structure will have a chair, dedicated full-time office supports and there will be direct links from the board into the different agencies and departments to get things moving.”
The board will be chaired independently by Brendan Foster, a partner in Grant Thornton, former chair of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the current chair of the Cherry Orchard Development Group. Department of Justice officials would meet DCC “again in the next few days”.
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She agreed many families in Cherry Orchard were “not in a good space”, having read of some describing the area as “hell” and expressing a wish to leave. She said she had been “haunted” since the September meeting of one of the local school’s staff telling her of a boy who was not turning up for class.
“When they eventually dropped up to the house he was minding his little siblings because the parents were missing ... So it is going to take more than a bit of investment”. She envisaged COIB being in place for at least five years, to start.
Among those at the meeting was local councillor Daithi Doolan who welcomed the announcement of the COIB.
“It’s a good news day for Cherry Orchard. Clearly they [Government officials] have listened. There is what I believe to be a long-term commitment at Government level to work with us, to put a structure in place, to resource it.
“We need senior people at that table, we need the community representatives central but we also need senior decision makers. We are not looking for a one-year commitment to summer projects. We need a long-term commitment to undo the damage by the State and structures that have disadvantaged this community over the last three to four decades.”
Councillor Hazel Norton, also welcomed the commitment from the Minister but said the trust of the community in the plan would have to be won. “People have heard about many plans over the years. We need to make sure the right stakeholders are involved and we will need to get some quick wins, like for instance a playground or other things so the community can see changes, to get the trust back, bring them in.”