Tony Dempsey's (28) body was found in a ground-floor flat in Kevin Barry House. Via Facebook

Questions to be answered over the murder in Kevin Barry House

On Monday, Tony Dempsey was found murdered in a flat at Kevin Barry House, not far from the Four Courts. His body had apparently lain in the flat for perhaps over a week before it was discovered. During that time, the flat appears to have been continually occupied and visited by numbers of people.

The Gardaí have said that Dempsey had been known to them for his involvement in the drugs trade. It is understood that the deceased was heavily involved in the drug trade, and indeed online forums devoted to discussing the criminal underworld were quick to make that link over the weekend.

His murder is, of course, to be condemned. Nobody deserves to die in such circumstances, and peoples’ sympathies are naturally with his family.

There are, however, several questions to be answered. The flat in question was “managed” by the Peter McVerry Trust. They gave it to another person, not the murdered man, around a year and a half ago. Staff from the Peter McVerry Trust were, according to themselves, visiting the flat on a daily basis in recent weeks to see how the tenant was getting on.

That presumably was connected to reports from legitimate residents of Kevin Barry House who have said that it was known that the flat was being used as a “drug den.” They had let it be known, presumably to the Gardaí and the Trust, that the comings and goings and noise and the menace associated with such places and the people who frequent them was causing considerable anxiety to people living there.

Which begs the question as to why the Peter McVerry Trust decided to visit all of this upon the people of the area – and of Kevin Barry House in particular? And if, over the course of the many months the flat was being used like a scene from Breaking Bad, why was the tenant not told to get out?

It is not the responsibility of the other people living in working class areas, who are already dealing with multitudes of problems, to facilitate some exercise in the rehabilitation of others.

But if they think such placements are a good idea then why did the Peter McVerry Trust not put the person into a private apartment block or better still, a nice semi in the leafy suburbs where he and his chums might have benefitted from the example of watching middle class people going about their daily lives?

Not that the leafy suburbs deserve to have a drug den planted among them either. Which is the point. No one does.

If the Peter McVerry Trust believes in no such thing as bad boys, like Fr. Flanagan of Boys Town, then it is well enough resourced to place them somewhere other than among decent people who already have enough on their plate dealing with the bad side of a city that sometimes seems to be facing social disintegration. They should not be treated like unpaid extras in another failed social engineering project.

There are lots of other people make a living out of this experiment, by the way.

In 2021, the Peter McVerry Trust employed 500 Full Time Equivalent employees. It had a self-generated income of almost €12 million, mostly from donations. It received a further €38.4 million from various public bodies. It has net assets of over €47 million. In 2021, it spent almost €33 million paying its own staff.

There are multiples of this spent by the combined NGOs, not to mention directly through the various state bodies, each year on addressing the problems they are funded to tackle Looking around Dublin and other urban centres, you would have to question its effectiveness. Perhaps things might be even worse were they not to be spending all that money. Who knows?

Perhaps, though, there might be better ways to do things. Indeed, one wonders if you asked people in Kevin Barry House and other communities placed at the coalface of dealing with such matters whether they would not prefer that more of it was spent on ensuring that the state might sometimes protect them and their families.

This would include not having open drug dealing take place on their doorsteps, much of it involving people who seem to run up dozens of convictions before getting the opportunity to sort themselves out in some safer location. Safer for them, but not for the people unfortunate to have to deal with them on a daily basis.

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