Joe Bradshaw is worried about the future of his community centre.
He is learning all kinds of skills as part of his rehabilitation programme at Kilbarrack Coast Community Programme (KCCP), he says. There’s cookery twice a week, art, maths, and English classes.
“I look forward to coming in, every day. The girls are absolutely brilliant,” he says of the support workers.
Bradshaw, middle aged and tall, is a recovering alcoholic, and says he likes to have structure to his day, arriving each morning before the centre opens, ready for breakfast and his daily meditation.
“I was hurting inside big-time, but the counselling is helping,” he says.
Now though, Bradshaw and others are worried that the centre could be facing eviction from its premises, due to a disagreement between the company with the lease for the building, and the group that runs the centre.
It’s not the first time these two parties have come into conflict.
It’s Monday morning and the community centre is busy. Around fifteen people are working on art projects in a fairly small training room, some are sitting around a big table, others are standing or walking around. There is laughter through the walls.
KCCP Coordinator Marian Clarke says she is worried that if the eviction goes ahead, the programme will not be able to offer its services anymore. She doesn’t think there are other facilities in the area that would be suitable.
There are other services at the community centre, beyond the rehabilitation programme and counselling mentioned by Bradshaw.
There is an after-school club, a family-training programme, play therapy for small children, a youth substance-use programme, a youth club, and a group for parents with toddlers.
Clarke says that KCCP rents the community centre from an organisation called the Kilbarrack and District Community Association (KADKA), which has a 99-year lease for the premises from Dublin City Council.
Declan Byrne, the community employment coordinator at KCCP, says that if local residents want to become a member of the community organisation KADKA, they have to pay €100. (That’s what it says in KADKA’s company documents too.)
That puts people off, and means the group isn’t representative of the community anymore, Byrne says. Stephen Reid, one of the directors of KADKA, said he was unable to answer any questions due to ongoing legal proceedings.
The Heart of the Dispute?
As Clarke tells it, the KCCP face the constant threat of eviction because they have refused to sign a lease. That’s because they can’t agree to what’s in it, she says.
“The lease contains a stipulation that KADKA can vet who participates on the programmes run in the centre,” she says. “That is something which we could never agree to.”
The lease also says KCCP can only use the centre Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, which would mean cutting back some of its main services, including its youth club, she says.
The conflict over the lease has been going on for years now. In 2012, KADKA and KCCP went to court and the judge suggested mediation.
They signed an agreement at that time, and KCCP are not objecting to the amount of the rent, says Clarke. But they have requested amendments to the lease.
“We have been paying rent to our solicitor each month and this will be transferred to KADKA when they make the necessary amendments to the lease,” says Clarke.
The community programme has tried to source another building, but “within the general area there is nowhere else suitable”, says Clarke.
Ideally, she would like to see a purpose-built community centre. She wants Dublin City Council to step in.
Whither the Council
When it first emerged that KCCP might have to move on, several Dublin City Councillors, TDs and MEPs, spoke out against the possible eviction.
On 19 December, at a local area committee meeting of Dublin City Council, Councillor Michael O’Brien of the Anti-Austerity Alliance put forward a motion in support of the community programme.
“We call upon the leaseholders to withdraw their proceedings and likewise call upon Dublin City Council to do everything in its power to help safeguard the survival of KCCP,” said the motion, which passed.
(Fianna Fáil’s Tom Brabazon had to leave the meeting, as he is the solicitor for KADKA.)
But Dublin City Council’s official position has been that as a case was due before the courts they couldn’t get involved, according to both O’Brien and Clarke.
But Byrne says KCCP received word from their solicitor on 17 January that there is no legal case pending, as the other side has failed to lodge the appropriate papers.
“It is great news that it is currently not due before the courts, but they could start it all up again tomorrow,” says Byrne.
Councillor O’Brien says that KCCP is “a very well run project, providing excellent service to the community”.
Sinn Fein Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha says there is “absolutely no support for this eviction in the community, people would be horrified by it”.