Falling down in Cherry Orchard: lots of amenities but few intact families

As many people will have seen, the Cherry Orchard housing estate in west Dublin was last night the scene of a video which shows a large crowd of people standing around watching a Garda patrol car being rammed, apparently by a stolen car, and then swiftly departing the scene to cheers from the assembled toerags.

As anyone familiar with Cherry Orchard will know, this was not a unique event. It just happened to be filmed by several budding Michael Moores.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Daithí Doolan who is the leader of that party’s group on Dublin City Council was quick to react.

 

His call for more “resources” as a solution did not evoke a particularly sympathetic response from some people who commented on his tweet.

 

Others pointed out that the part of Dublin in which Cherry Orchard is situated is not exactly deprived of “amenities.”

A Dáil question in March this year showed that between 2020 and the first months of 2022 that the Cherry Orchard Equine Centre had received €406,952 in funding from the Department of Justice under the rubric of “Youth Justice Interventions.”

That is not to argue that such projects might not be effective. I know of one horse project in Finglas which is hugely effective in both enhancing participation by local young people, and in improving the care and welfare of horses. It is effective because it is properly run and it clearly is a community asset.

 

Added to that, some of the new “social housing” built there has been vandalised. Indeed, when work was set to begin on new housing in Cherry Orchard in late 2016 there were protests by locals who wished to keep the green space upon which the houses were to be built, and who also opposed the placing of new families in an area which they claimed was already finding it hard to cope with the sort of people likely to be offered and take a house in an estate where most people would rather not live given a choice.

In December 2016, an arson attack delayed the construction of 72 new houses in Cherry Orchard.

Ironically, given their constant demands for “social housing,” it was Councillors from Sinn Féin and People Before Profit who continued to object to the City Council plans on the grounds that there were too many houses being proposed to be built, and that there was not sufficient amenities.

They do have a point, but it ought also to soften their cough when it comes to wanting these sort of developments in other places, just not among the people who vote for them.

As was pointed out, neither has Cherry Orchard been starved of resources. As two of the tweets above detail, there are some excellent facilities available in the area, and within a short distance of the estate. Along with that there are a number of local people who organise team sports and other activities. As one of the tweets also states, however, some of the facilities have been vandalised including by the driving of scrambler bikes over local authority football pitches.

Scrambler bikes that have often bought by the parents of the yokes who use them as part of their arsenal in their constant war on the people unfortunate enough to have to live near them.

It’s a problem which, in fairness, Councillor Doolan does recognise and in 2018 he defended the granting of enhanced powers to the City Council to evict tenants who were involved in anti-social and criminal activity.

In his 2018 statement regarding evictions from Cherry Orchard, Daithí struck a far more “right wing” note than had been the response of some people in Sinn Féin despite the fact that their party colleagues in other parts of Dublin had made huge differences to local communities by applying stricter criteria to the granting, and retention, of houses by the council.

Doolan had welcomed new legislation which allowed the local authority to “hold tenants to account.” He referred to one tenant who had run up an unpaid rent bill of €25,000 and said that while

“nobody wants to see a family taken out of their home … if someone is holding an area to ransom, this sends out a message that DCC is back in business. They will take action against tenants who breach their tenancy. I would say if you desist in anti-social behaviour, you will be fine, but if you persist, action will be taken.”

That, along with greater Garda resolve to tackle the people responsible is what people want, not the throwing of money into schemes that show no evidence that they are effective. One can also sympathise with those who point to the overall impact of societal decay.

 

It may not paint a pretty picture of some parts of Dublin and other Irish cities and towns throughout the country but it is reality.

The connection between all of the factors referred to in that tweet is as plain as the nose on your face. There are mountains of research and statistics to prove it. There are few, however, in any part of Irish public life willing to go beyond proposing even more of the policies that have clearly failed here and in other countries as alleged solutions.

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