Drimnagh is well connected to the city, said Simon Ó’Donnabháin on Monday night, standing beside the Goldenbridge Luas stop in Drimnagh.
“Where we’re standing now, we have the canal, there’s cycle tracks here, and the Luas,” says Ó’Donnabháin, who lives on Sperrin Road.
And “it’s a brilliant community here”, says Ó’Donnabháin, who has lived here his whole life, after his mother moved from the inner-city in the ’50s.
Around the neighbourhood, there are signs that community is set to grow.
On Davitt Road, beside the Goldenbridge Luas stop, there’s the skeleton of 265 build-to-rent apartments.
Dublin City Council has plans for social housing nearby, for 52 units on Keeper Road.
Residents are happy to see housing coming up as they are aware of the city’s shortage, says Ó’Donnabháin. “We just hope we get the mix right, so no one gets left behind and we can all benefit from being in such a great geographical area.”
“Cost rental, affordable housing and built to rent,” says Patricia Ryan, stood by the ledge of the canal, “to complement the population that’s already here”.
But new services will be needed to integrate the new population into the community, as the current ones don’t have the space, she says.
So Ryan and Ó’Donnabháin, along with eight others, have come together to try to bring services in Drimnagh up to scratch for the potentially thousands of new neighbours they could have in the coming years.
They’re calling themselves the Dynamic Drimnagh Forum 2030.
Drimnagh has a great tradition of youth centres and clubs going back right to when the neighbourhood was built, says Ó’Donnabháin. “So we’d like to bring them up to scratch, and have modern up-to-date facilities that would do us proud.”
Patricia Ryan was concerned for vulnerable residents when the pandemic hit in March, so she compiled an emergency booklet for them and delivered it door-to-door.
Lorraine Mitchell, another resident, was preparing something similar. Realising what the other was doing, they merged their information and were able to tackle a wider area, said Ryan.
By bringing other groups on board, they realised they could make a louder and stronger case together when appealing for resources for the area, says Ryan.
Together, they drafted a submission to be included in the Dublin City Council Development Plan 2022–28.
Groups coming together is what will make it possible, says Liam Fitzgerald, another member of Dynamic Drimnagh. “There’s an opportunity now to get facilities for Drimnagh.”
Their group is representative of Drimnagh, says Ryan, with a mix of skills “and we’d like to say we bring a nice mix between the old and the new”.
Each person loosely represents a local established group, with the hope of communicating the needs of each group, and representing the widest demographic possible.
Mitchell brings an environmental perspective as a member of Tidy Drimnagh, while Fitzgerald and Ryan represent Drimnagh Residents Community Group.
Fitzgerald says residents of Drimnagh have always wanted to be self-sufficient. “Whenever something was needed, there was a fundraiser and people would donate to it. The people of Drimnagh are very generous.”
When the GAA had to get Covid-19 cleaning for its centre, it paid for the cleaning, despite there being a grant for the service.
“We wanted to do things on our own. It’s ingrained in us,” says Fitzgerald. “We’d better get it out of us.”
What they need now though is too expensive for a fundraiser. Dynamic Drimnagh coming together is a first step towards seeking grants and external money, says Fitzgerald.
Community provisions are “dated” and “in dire need of upkeep and investment”, says Eoin Neylon, another member of the group.
New People, New Services
Naga Srikanth, also a member, bought a house in Drimnagh last year, moving across the city from Dundrum. He felt immediately welcome, he says.
He could afford a house here, he says, and the location is ideal.
“It feels like a good community. Everyone’s going to a good job. They’re selfless and always doing something for the locality, and that feels really great,” he says.
But he can sense the lack of services in the area, he says. “The streets are not cleaned as frequently as other areas.”
Longer-term residents can identify larger needs. A canal village, with shops and cafés by the water and the new apartments, would be a dream, says Ryan.
The area doesn’t have a big problem with the high rises, says Ryan. “It’s more what they will do when they get here.”
Views on the higher-rise blocks do vary across the neighbourhood, though, with some opposed to the greater heights.
“If they don’t give some kind of facilities, you’ll have people getting on the Luas to do their shopping,” says Peter Burke, chairperson of Drimnagh Residents Association and member of Dynamic Drimnagh.
A civic or community centre would also be really important for Drimnagh, says Fitzgerald.
Although Our Lady’s Hall on Mourne Road, and the St John Bosco Youth Centre are popular for group activities, both buildings are in disrepair and in need of updating, he says.
“We’re banging our heads against the wall looking for up-to-date facilities,” he says. A new centre would provide much-needed space for future residents too.
Healthcare, too. “We have long been promised a primary care centre, we’d be very interested in that,” said Burke.
GP services are also needed. “Most GPs around here aren’t taking on new patients,” says Neylon.
Construction had been due to start this year on a primary care centre.
“There’s no swimming pool, no library, but we’re constantly being told, ‘Oh sure isn’t there one just over the road that way, or this way,’” says Neylon.
“As a community, we do feel we are being horrendously overlooked, time and time again,” he says.
Kids in the area need twelve months of outdoor sport, and more sporting variety, says Dynamic Drimnagh member Fergus Parkinson, who is the former chairperson of Good Counsel GAA.
With 25 GAA teams, they’ve never had the space for everyone to practice and play matches, he says.
“What we’re looking for, in the not-too-distant future, is a full-size all-weather GAA pitch,” he says. Brickfield Park has an all-weather pitch, installed by the council, but it’s for soccer, not gaelic football or hurling.
They have some ideas for where a pitch should go, but they’re waiting to talk with Dublin City Council, about what’s practical, and what’s possible, says Parkinson.
“It’s all about the will,” he says. “If there’s the will to do it, we’ll find everything else. We’ll find the space, we’ll find the money, we’ll find everything else.”
Armed with their list of needed services, the members of the Dynamic Drimnagh Forum expect to present to the council’s South Central Area Committee, hoping to get the support of councillors and make their voices louder, says Burke.
“We’d like to be singing off the same hymn sheet if we can,” says Fitzgerald. “If we as a group can say, ‘We’re the whole of Drimnagh speaking here,’ it can help us get what we as a community need.”
[UPDATE: This article was updated at 10.51am on 10 August to make it clearer that there are differing views in Drimagh about greater heights and density.]