In response to shootings and the activities of crime gangs in Darndale in Dublin and Drogheda in Co. Louth, a new place-based Leadership Development Programme was launched recently. It has high aspirations in areas beset by gang crime.

In response to shootings and the activities of crime gangs in Darndale in Dublin and Drogheda in Co. Louth, a new place-based Leadership Development Programme was launched recently.
The programme supports a dozen local leaders in each place to help them develop together and address challenges in their areas.

“Sadly back in 2019 there were a number of shootings in Darndale and shortly after that we were asked to host a meeting between the justice minister at the time and the community – to see how community and statutory organisations could come together to address some of the key challenges,” said Paul Rogers, CEO of Northside Partnership, speaking to our colleagues in Near FM, in March.

• At Northside Partnership’s Place-based Leadership-launch in January.

The 24 participants embarking on the 18-month exercise include local residents and representatives of local community groups and statutory organisations.
Backed by €188,650 in funding from the Department of Rural and Community Development, the programme is also being delivered on foot of recommendations in Jack Nolan’s report (the ‘Darndale Socio-Economic and Community Plan’).

Mr Rogers – in his interview with Near FM’s Donie Tarrant – said the upsurge in crime led to calls for a community response. That wasn’t as simple as it sounded. Adding to the challenge, he said, was the fact that State agencies no longer work as collaboratively with communities as they did 13 years ago.

He said it is “at the heart of how we work in Northside Partnership” to always seek to collaborate. “But since 2008, that kind of mechanism has not been as effective, because the State has been retreating into contract management. Previously, we had good opportunities for dialogue… but those kind of opportunities are disappearing,” he said. “Our challenge was – how do we find a space for community, residents, statutory organisations to come together?”

By good fortune, Mr Rogers attended a seminar organised by the Department of Rural and Community Development in November 2019 at which Dr. Bob Worrall and community leaders from Scotland gave a presentation about Place-Based Leadership Programmes.

“They said how well it was working over there,” recalled Rogers. “I thought this was an opportunity for us to bring people together.”

• Seized in Darndale: drugs, cash, weighing scale and mobile phones. Source – Garda Siochana

He connected with the Scots after the seminar and put a proposal to the Department of Rural and Community Development. It was approved in February, 2020, and, though Covid delayed the launch, it has now begun.

Rogers hopes it will nurture relationships between community representatives, drug and addiction services, the HSE, Gardai, Tusla, Dublin City Council and so on.

“The participants will get perspectives from others and take a deep dive into the challenges. Time is the one thing we have to give to understand what the challenges are – as seen from a residents’ perspective and other perspectives,” he said.

The programme will give people time to pick apart the challenges, explore the issues and hopefully come back with solutions. Each person will have access to professional coaches.

“How can Northside Partnership contribute to a solution? How can the Gardai contribute? How can Dublin City Council contribute?” he asked.

• Children from Darndale at a sing-along in Darndale Belcamp Community Centre in December. Source: Darndale Belcamp Village Centre on Facebook.

Joe O’Brien, Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development attended the induction day in Darndale. He thanked all involved including Northside Partnership, Paul Rogers, Dr. Rob Worrall, and Ciaran Reid and the team in Louth Leader Partnership.

Darndale and Drogheda are by no means the only communities beset by gang crime and he said it was a “very important and meaningful programme” and expressed confidence that learnings from the initiative “can be built upon and expanded to other communities in Ireland”.

Also speaking at the launch, Niamh McTiernan of Northside Partnership said:
“Place Based Leadership will ensure that local leaders develop the collaboration skills needed to address the challenges their communities face. The issues identified in both Darndale and Drogheda are complex and will require a response from a number of different sectors. An important element of driving change will be a strong coalition of mutually invested organisations working with the local community. This approach will make a lasting impact and bring forward the solutions required.”