What’s new with Our Town

our town meeting4

The latest Community Convention for the Our Town Ringsend-Irishtown area took place on March 24th at the Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre, and was well-attended with concerned groups from the area.

The purpose was to bring all present up to speed on how the various action committees (formed in previous meetings) have been progressing, or what obstacles they may have met over the course of the months.

Chairing the meeting was Diarmuid Gavin, along with Felim Dunne and Padraic White. In a forward-thinking measure to raise awareness of the Community Convention and the adjoining Our Town project, proceedings were filmed by Hugh Chanollor, with an eye to collecting footage for a promotional presentation which would showcase the debate and decision-making progress among participants.

Starting with a recap of what had been agreed upon in previous meetings, Diarmuid raised the question “What is Our Town Ringsend/Irishtown for?” and restated the general focus of improving quality of life for an entire region neglected and disappointed by broken promises in the past. Bleak as it may read on paper, this was a positive restatement of purpose.

Next, Felim Dunne presented a review of how the various action committees had been progressing since the last meetings.

The Education group has been examining – and emphasising – the need for better data on local drop-out rates from second-level education, and had identified transition-year students as a key area of concern. The forthcoming launch of RICCY’s Café, a youth café in Irishtown, was noted as a positive development.

The Social Exclusion committee were credited as developing a questionnaire that was distributed to groups who suffer from marginalisation. The local LGBT community and the local Traveller community responded positively, although it is noted that Travellers felt excluded in matters of employment.

The same applied to recovering addicts, who additionally felt uninformed of local events, although they were grateful for support from the Spellman Centre. Teenagers complained they lacked facilities in the evenings. Lone parents had the longest list of grievances, citing loneliness and lack of financial support, particularly in relation to securing Rent Allowance payments.

There was no meaningful feedback from the elderly residents who were contacted, and the committee felt unqualified to apply the survey to locals with mental health problems.

The Sports committee asserted a need for more resources for teams and clubs, maybe a local changing facility. A boxing club or martial arts club is still afloat and a likely candidate is being discussed. In debate, it was agreed that major local investment was needed and had to be matched by local recruitment.

The Communications group relayed information about the need for a website for the initiative but that a venture of developing and maintaining one would be unnecessary when existing community websites could be enhanced through amalgamated efforts of a few key groups. Bath Avenue has demonstrated that a physical noticeboard is a huge advantage that needs to be established
At this stage, Padraic White took the floor and presented some original thoughts. He emphasised that the Community Convention is meant to be an organisation that threatens no-one and to foster co-operation. He proposed bringing the Education, Social Exclusion and Access to Work together under one umbrella as they are inter-related, and described the Sport issue as a challenge for the community – “We all seem to agree we haven’t belled that cat yet” – and that Physical Regeneration be reconceived as maybe “Village Renewal”?

Diarmuid concluded the evening by saying he felt the listening phase of Our Town was at an end and soon local tech companies could be approached with proposals. A discussion developed about the importance of a local representative being present at this meeting.

Lastly, watch for an announcement of an Our Town event coming soon, following the success of last year’s Fun Run.

By Rúairí Conneely