Dublin City Council and An Garda Síochana are going to launch a new forum to tackle crime, anti-social behaviour and drug use in the city centre, a council official said at a meeting yesterday.
“This is about more than just policing,” said Karl Mitchell, the council’s director of services for the city centre, at a meeting of the City-wide Joint Policing Committee on 25 September.
The forum will tackle issues in the inner-city by delegating actions to the appropriate agencies – the Gardaí, the council, youth services, drugs services or Tusla, he says.
But there are already forums in place that are supposed to do this.
The north inner-city has a community-safety partnership, which is supposed to bring parties together to tackle safety issues. The south inner-city has a joint policing committee.
“How is it not duplication?” asked Green Party Councillor Janet Horner, at the meeting. “There need to be clear channels and accountability.”
She is worried, she said, that the number of forums set up for similar purposes could really confuse people.
However, other councillors welcomed the move. “This is a very positive thing for the citizens of this city,” said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn.
On the phone after the meeting, Social Democrats Councillor Tara Deacy, who chairs the joint policing committee, said that an old stakeholder forum launched in 2012 – which like this mooted one was also called A Better City for All – was a success story.
“This is a model of good practice that has worked really well in the past and we have re-invigorated it,” says Deacy.
Same but different?
In 2021, the Minister for Justice Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee announced three pilot projects to trial a new approach to community safety.
The idea, she said, was to get all stakeholders in a community around the table, including councils and Gardaí, as well as youth workers, community representatives and drugs charities.
Three places were chosen to trial this approach: Longford, Waterford and Dublin’s north inner-city.
Earlier this month, more than two years on from the launch of the pilot, the north inner-city partnership published its plan for what it would do.
For the first two years, the government allocated a budget of more than €370,000 to the north inner-city partnership, according to an evaluation report by the University of Limerick.
On the south side of the inner-city, there isn’t as broad a stakeholder forum as the community-safety partnership to the north. But Gardaí, public representatives, council officials and community and voluntary sector staff collaborate through the joint-policing committee structure.
So why not bolster what’s there or bring them together, rather than set up another brand-new forum? asks Horner, the Green Party councillor. “There is a confusion being created by having so many different parties in the mix.”
The duplication might lead to less transparency. “Who is responsible for addressing what the actual problem is?” she asks. “Who, what, when, where, how?
Deacy, the Social Democrats councillor, says the new forum will be really focused on actions and delivery and tied to hard deadlines. “It’s going to be a really clearly actioned, time-framed initiative.”
She expects the forum to run for a year initially and hopes it will provide a template for best practice, as it was successful in the past, she says.
“It was a proper collaborative approach that involved all the stakeholders. The business community were involved, and the Gardaí were actively involved,” said Deacy.
At the meeting, Mitchell, the council’s director of services for the city centre, said the initiative is not another new structure.
It will allow for a cohesive response across the city centre and will allow the authorities to challenge anti-social behaviour and offer better support to vulnerable people, he said.
What will it do?
The community-safety partnership being piloted on the north side recently appointed community-safety wardens to work in the O’Connell Street and Wolfe Tone Square areas.
In May 2022, the partnership was working on initiatives to make the north inner-city feel safer, such as improving lighting.
It also responded to attacks on Deliveroo riders by creating a forum for communication between those workers and the Gardaí, said Cormac Ó Donnchú, the chairperson at the time.
Ó Donnchú has since resigned. Eddie Mullins, the governor of Mountjoy Prison, has been appointed in his place.
Deacy says the community-safety partnership covers the north inner-city only. Whereas the new forum will cover all of the city centre.
She wants to see specific issues tackled quickly, she says.
For example, anti-social behaviour escalates in the summertime, said Deacy, so the forum should consider running activities programmes for hard-to-reach young people during that time.
If that were agreed, it would be designated as an action to a youth-work project sitting on the forum and they would be responsible for getting that running by next summer, she said.
Another possible action would be for Dublin City Council to commit to clearing the rubbish off the streets by a certain time, she says.
“If we can’t implement the action, what is the block?” says Deacy. If some agencies are understaffed, say, then that needs to be addressed, she says.
The forum will report back to the City-wide Joint Policing Committee, she says, and report into the other structures.
At the Tuesday meeting, Fianna Fáil Senator Mary Fitzpatrick said the forum needs to identify its aims and objectives, its mission statement, and how it will assess whether it has been successful.
Mitchell, the council manager, said he will provide a written report on the new forum to the next meeting of the City-wide Joint Policing Committee, in November.
The Department of Justice didn’t respond before publication to queries sent Monday evening as to whether the need for a new forum indicates that there are issues with the roll-out of the north inner-city community-safety partnership – and whether it backs the establishment of a new forum.