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Urban Development

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 1 June 2021

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Ceisteanna (7, 8, 9)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

7. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the role of his Department in Dublin's north east inner city initiative. [23898/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

8. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the role of his Department in the north east inner city initiative. [26503/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

9. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the role of his Department in the north east inner city initiative. [28387/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive, together.

The Mulvey report, Dublin North East Inner City: Creating a Brighter Future, was commissioned by the Government and published in February 2017. The report contained recommendations for the social and economic regeneration of Dublin's north east inner city. The report has been further supplemented by the publishing of the next strategic plan, which runs from 2020 to 2022. Both documents are available on the Dublin north east inner city, NEIC, website.

In June 2017 an independent chairperson was appointed by Government to the NEIC programme implementation board. Members of the board include representatives from relevant Government Departments and agencies, business and the local community. The board is assisted in its work by six subgroups: enhanced policing; maximising educational training and employment opportunities; family well-being; enhancing community well-being and the physical landscape; substance use misuse and inclusion health; and alignment of services.

The board and its subgroups continue to meet on a monthly basis to oversee and progress the implementation of the Mulvey report and the NEIC strategic plan. Officials from the Department of the Taoiseach work closely with the board, the subgroups and the dedicated programme office based in Seán MacDermott Street. The chairperson of the board reports to an oversight group of senior officials chaired by the Secretary General of my Department. This group, which has met 11 times to date, ensures strong and active participation by all relevant Departments and agencies and deals with any barriers or issues highlighted by the board. The Cabinet committee on social affairs and equality provides political oversight of the NEIC initiative. The Government is committed to supporting and investing in the north east inner city community and ensuring the board has the necessary resources to achieve its targets and fulfil its ambition. To this end the Government has made available €6.5 million in funding for the initiative in 2021.

I will set out some highlights of what the initiative has delivered to date in 2021. There is strong support, both financial and otherwise, for the recently launched north inner city local community safety partnership. There is an increased Garda presence in the area with the Garda community support van supporting a focus on community policing, particularly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. A Garda project focused on drug-related intimidation continues to have positive benefits. Funding has been provided for the training of local gardaí and local community-based practitioners in addressing domestic violence and child protection issues. There is the ongoing roll-out of the P-TECH initiative in secondary schools - the pathways in technology programme - in the NEIC area. A highly successful work experience programme in flash mentoring has been delivered for second level students in the NEIC. Funding has been provided to develop an adult and community education strategy for the area. Substantial funding has been provided for a community case management team that will work with the most vulnerable and high-risk families in the area. The funding of a dedicated parenting support co-ordinator post has been provided. There is funding to provide access to fast-track counselling for children and young people in the area. A significant investment has been made in a bespoke sport, recreation and well-being programme for the area. Dedicated community events and arts programmes have been funded for 2021. A full-time intercultural development co-ordinator is employed for the area. Funding has been provided for a recovery case manager and recovery coach internships. We have seen the continued operation in the NEIC of Ireland's first social inclusion hub. Funding is provided for a homeless case management team. Funding is provided for a residential stabilisation programme. Funding is provided for the City Connects programme. Funding is provided to the local early learning initiative and the refurbishment of the swimming pool on Seán MacDermott Street. Finally, there is a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, occupational speech and language therapists. I will read the rest into the record.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Funding is provided to support the SWAN detached youth programme. A green ribbon project has been rolled out with an environmental clean-up and litter prevention measures in partnership with local residents. There has been the purchase of almost 500 laptops and devices to support students in NEIC schools with home learning through the worst of the pandemic.

In 2021, some €1 million of the €6.5 million NEIC budget has been allocated to the social employment fund, through which 55 posts have been filled in community projects providing childcare, youth services, elder care, cultural and environmental services.

This responsive and innovative initiative has been widely welcomed within the community.

The programme implementation board will continue to implement the remaining actions set out in the Mulvey report and the NEIC strategic plan 2020-22 as well as adopting a greater focus on long-term sustainable outcomes which operate in an integrated framework and add value to the existing service infrastructure. Progress reports on the NEIC initiative are available on the NEIC website for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The Government remains committed to supporting and investing in the north east inner city community and ensuring the chairperson and programme implementation board have the necessary resources to help to make the area a better place to work and live.

Of course the neglect and poverty in the inner city of Dublin, as in other inner city and other areas throughout the State, is not accidental. It has happened on the watch of successive Governments and is in fact the consequence of bad policy, as the Taoiseach knows.

To create the brighter future to which the Taoiseach referred, it is imperative that we invest in our children and in early education. That is what I wish to raise with the Taoiseach today. Early education providers in Dublin's north inner city have been adversely affected by the new national childcare scheme. In fact, up to 80% of children attending the early learning settings that cater for the most disadvantaged children are now in difficulties because of this new scheme. The viability and sustainability of these centres is under question. The parents of children attending these services are currently unemployed. Therefore, the subvention is reduced.

The providers in the inner city have raised these real concerns with the Department. They have spent months trying to resolve this issue. Their single wish is to ensure that children in the inner city, especially the most disadvantaged children, have access to early education. Yet, they have found no solution. They have suggested the implementation of a DEIS model to sustain these children. I implore the Taoiseach to intervene on the matter and not allow these children to be failed again.

The north east inner city task force has done extraordinarily good work but there is more work to be done. How much is the Taoiseach engaged in the programme of implementation? Has the Department or the Taoiseach been briefed on whether the Rutland Street School community hub project has gone to tender yet? When is work expected to start? If the Taoiseach is engaged, he will be able to reply and answer that. The plans for this were announced in 2016. It is now five years later. It was originally believed that it would be funded by central government but now much of it is from the resources of the council. There are numerous competing projects, as the Taoiseach can appreciate. Is it being funded under the urban regeneration fund? If not, why not?

The Labour Party has called for a Mulvey-style commission or task force on the north side of Dublin and another in Drogheda. My colleagues, Senator Marie Sherlock, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Deputy Ged Nash, have campaigned for this for a long time. We do not believe we can simply police our way out of crime alone. We agree that the plan put in place some years ago had some merit but it needs a great deal of work.

It seems from the evidence that this Government's commitment needs to be renewed. A task force or Mulvey-style commission would really help to deal with many of the ingrained problems in the area. In the Taoiseach's reply he might respond directly about the Rutland Street school community hub project.

In the north inner city, sport has always been a great leveller and a great outlet for young people. Yet, in the Mulvey report, sport seems to be the great omission. The Taoiseach read out the list of funding initiatives but there is little that pertains to sport. There are two great soccer clubs in the north inner city, Sheriff Youth Club and Belvedere FC. Both play on an astroturf pitch in Clontarf. The pitch is completely outdated. The pitch has a lifespan of approximately seven years but it has been at the grounds now for 11 years. It is outdated and needs investment. That needs to happen. There is no GAA club currently in the north inner city. That is something we need to factor in to our considerations because there is a great desire for GAA in the north inner city. It is in the shadows of Croke Park. The local boxing club in the heart of Dublin 1 applied for a grant for female changing facilities some weeks ago. Those involved were turned down. The boxing club is flourishing but there are no facilities for-----

Who was turned down?

It was Corinthians Boxing Club. It is in the heart of the north inner city. They need a female changing room.

Who turned down the club?

I think it was the council. That will need to be addressed because there is a great desire for boxing in the north inner city.

The Seán MacDermott Street swimming pool remains closed. It has been closed for two years. The students in the Central Model Senior School in sixth class are running their own campaign.

I would love to see them supported in this campaign to get the pool open so that they can have a swim in it over the summer. It is a really viable facility.

Funding has been provided to assist in the refurbishment of the swimming pool on Sean McDermott Street. Other supports are going into the area. I refer to the SWAN Youth Service, the detached youth work programme and the Green Ribbon Project, through which environmental clean-up and litter prevention measures are being rolled out. I refer also to the purchase of almost 500 laptops and devices to support students in north-east inner-city area schools with the home learning that has been ongoing during the pandemic. A sum of €1 million has been allocated to the social employment fund, through which 55 posts have been filled in community projects providing childcare, youth services, elder care and cultural and environmental services. These measures have been broadly welcomed.

I will address some of the issues that have been raised. With regard to the Rutland Street School site, Part 8 planning approval was granted by Dublin City Council in October 2019 and an enabling works contract to the value of €780,000 was completed in 2019. This was a lead-in contract to assess structural loading, asbestos volumes and so on in advance of main contract works. Tender documents for the main construction contract were issued in July 2020. The main construction contract for the Rutland Street School redevelopment is in the final stages of the public procurement process. Following completion of restricted procedure stage 1 in the fourth quarter of 2020, a number of shortlisted firms were invited to submit tenders for stage 2. Evaluation of these tender submissions is currently under way and it is anticipated that this process will be completed in the coming weeks. That is good news for this particular development. I agree with Deputy Gannon.

Deputy Kelly made the point that we need to create area-based partnerships such as that created in the north-east inner city elsewhere. I have tasked my Department to work with the Cabinet subcommittee on social affairs to identify a number of areas of disadvantage or areas with particular challenges for which to prioritise supports. This was the approach of the old revitalising areas through planning, investment and development, RAPID, programme which we created years ago when I was last in government. The idea is that clubs and organisations in those communities are to be given higher ratings when applying for funding. This would mean that Corinthians Boxing Club, for example, would be more highly prioritised. I will ask the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to look at the area of boxing because some clubs need support both in making applications and in making sure that they are successful in getting the supports they urgently need in partnership with local authorities, the county and city councils. Such clubs do great work.

I would like the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to work with Dublin North East Inner City and with the sporting groups in the community in respect of soccer, GAA, which the Deputy mentioned, and other sports. This is where investment should go. I have no difficulty in working with Government to provide capital investment in these areas for sporting facilities, particularly AstroTurf pitches and so on in inner-city locations.

With regard to childcare, I will speak to the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in respect of investment. There has, however, been sustained investment in childcare in inner-city areas. There has also been sustained investment in education. Going way back, I was involved in providing funding for Larkin Community College. There has been consistent engagement and support. I take the point made in respect of housing. I will engage with the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman, with regard to the issues pertaining to childcare. More generally, housing has a role to play in the revitalisation of the area. In addition to supporting the existing community, we have to work to ensure that younger generations can aspire to housing within the community. We have to work to refurbish existing housing stock and to create new housing provision in the area. The early years are important but, as I pointed out in my earlier reply, I am very committed to the provision of multidisciplinary supports from physiotherapy to speech and language therapy and occupational therapy for children. A multidisciplinary team-based approach is vital.

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