In June 2016, a Ministerial Taskforce chaired by An Taoiseach was established to support the long-term economic and social regeneration of Dublin’s North East Inner City (NEIC). This was in response to a series of murders in the area which were linked to an ongoing feud between criminal gangs involved in the drugs trade and other criminal activities. The taskforce appointed Kieran Mulvey, former chairman of the Labour Court, to prepare a report to inform this regeneration. Among the terms of reference were that Mulvey would ‘recommend specific measures which would support the long-term economic and social regeneration of the area, with a ten year timeframe’ (p. 6). On 16 February 2017, ‘Creating a brighter future’: an outline plan for the social and economic regeneration of Dublin’s North East Inner City was published.1
The North East Inner City
In 2011, the North East Inner City had a population of 17 580 spread across 6788 households. The report presents a picture of an area ‘steeped in history’ and which has a ‘vibrant community’. However, it is also an area facing significant challenges in terms of social, economic, and environmental deprivation, as well as the effects of intergenerational drug use and criminal activity. Furthermore, there are high levels of ‘variability’ within the area. On the one hand, there are highly educated and skilled professionals living in good-quality housing in ‘gated’ communities, while on the other hand, parts of the community experience high levels of social deprivation characterised by low levels of educational attainment, high levels of unemployment, and poor housing. The National Economic and Social Council provided a ‘view’ of the NEIC and emphasised that this variability challenges the idea that ‘deprivation in an area will be addressed by just attracting more investment and more (middle and upper class) workers’ (p. 19). Instead, they argue, this sense of very separate ‘communities’ in an area tends to accentuate the sense and awareness of inequality within the community. The author summarises his view of the NEIC as being ‘a community rich in assets which is not reaching its potential’ (p. 15).
Place- and people-based regeneration
Extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders was carried out as well as a rapid review of the evidence of what has worked both nationally and internationally in terms of regeneration. The author outlines a plan for the area’s regeneration that is grounded in a combination of place- and people-based approaches. ‘Place-based’ interventions or policies address the area’s needs in terms of housing, crime, and the physical environment; ‘people-based’ interventions or policies address the population’s needs in terms of health, education, and community participation.
Vision, guiding principles and recommendations
The vision for the outline plan is ‘making the NEIC a safe, attractive and vibrant living and working environment for the community and its families with opportunities for all to lead full lives’ (p. 24). To deliver on this, the author outlines specific structures and processes that should be put in place. The plan will also need to be guided by a set of core principles. It should be inclusive and take a whole community approach; present a revised narrative for the area and its identity; acknowledge that ‘more of the same’ is not the answer; take a tailored evidence-based approach; be locally led and community driven; and be well-connected to existing structures and policies. A number of recommendations were also made for what is required to underpin the plan’s delivery, including:
- While regenerating the area will require a long-term plan, ‘clear ambition’ must be apparent at the outset to deliver on a number of priority actions in the first three years (2017‒2020).
- There must be ongoing Government commitment to the regeneration for a minimum of 10 years.
- There will need to be a dedicated funding programme approved by Government.
- An independent executive chair should be appointed immediately to establish the necessary delivery structures and to develop and progress a detailed implementation plan.
- Progress in delivering on the project plan and any associated impact should be monitored on an ongoing basis. Baseline data linked to specific outcomes will need to be developed early on and a clear reporting structure implemented.
Key priority areas
To deliver on the plan’s vision, Mulvey identified four key areas for priority action over the next three years. These are summarised in the report as follows:
A. Tackling Crime and Drugs: Better and more visible policing with an emphasis on community policing needs to be [a] key feature in the Plan. It must be ‘safe’ to lead; it must be ‘safe’ to live, work, learn and play in the community.
B. Maximising Educational/Training Opportunities/Creating Local Employment Opportunities: There needs to be significant enhancement of the linkages between education and employment opportunity for this current generation of schoolgoers, young adults and the unemployed in local businesses and enterprises, particularly in the business/retail area of the inner city and in the Docklands Development ‒ both in construction and business occupation stages.
C. Creating an Integrated System of Social Services: Social, educational and training services to address the real problems faced by families and their children need to be planned and delivered in a far more coordinated fashion. Services should be coordinated under a single plan which is in response to the particular needs and circumstances of different communities within the area.
D. Improving the Physical Landscape: The area has some of the broadest streets in the City with potential for refurbishment and revitalisation. Future regeneration needs to explore the potential within the area to renovate, make it liveable and bright with improved physical landscape; to eliminate waste, derelict sites and progress the refurbishment and replacement of the existing flat complexes. (p. 25)
Each of these priority areas are explored in detail in the report and a set of outcomes and outputs with relevant actions are laid out. A recurring theme throughout is the need for clear leadership to deliver on each priority action area to ensure a more integrated, aligned, cohesive and coordinated approach to service delivery. Mulvey argues that there has already been substantial financial investment in the area and that, while more is required, inadequate funding is not the only reason why services are not delivering for the community. Tackling the structural and coordination issues that are preventing current investment from achieving the best possible outcomes for the community across the priority areas is central to delivering on the plan. He also outlines the governance structures that need to be put in place to support the regeneration.
In launching the report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed the Government’s ongoing support for the plan. He referred to the implementation structures and processes outlined in the report as key: ‘There is a vital need to ensure there are no more “false dawns” for this community. If we want to make this happen for real this time, we need community engagement and support as a prerequisite. The structures and processes that Kieran has proposed have that at their heart.’ He also confirmed that the Ministerial Taskforce and Senior Officials Group chaired by the secretary general of the Department would maintain an ongoing oversight role. He said that ‘this level of oversight has never happened before for an area-based project like this. We have to successfully harness the expertise and learning to make these types of initiatives work’.
1 Mulvey K (2017) ‘Creating a brighter future’: an outline plan for the social and economic regeneration of Dublin’s North East Inner City. Dublin: Government Publications. http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/26859/