The official opening of the Moyross Youth Academy was more than just a launch – it was an opportunity for local participants to tell their stories.

At this summer’s launch of the Moyross Youth Academy, past participant (and current staff member of Moyross Development Company) Laura Hughes, spoke about her life’s journey. Here, editor Allen Meagher gathers excerpts from her speech.

“For people who don’t know me, I’m from Moyross and this is who I am.

“When I was a baby, I was placed in foster care, as both my parents were alcoholics. I spent nine years in and out of 19 different homes, which, as you can imagine, was extremely traumatic and stressful for a young child.

“I’ll never forget the day I came home, though. I was nine years old. I didn’t know it was ‘home’. I just thought it was another move. But I was home with my mammy – my real mammy – and my real brothers and sisters. And I’m delighted to have done them proud today, [especially] my real mammy, who is here and who is 25 years keeping sober.

Path to prison

“Living in Moyross was hard. It was at the height of the feuds in Limerick and there were shootings, violence and robbed cars – that was the norm around here.

“I’d grown up in the countryside and I wasn’t one bit streetwise. However, it wasn’t long before I was fitting right in. I became involved in petty crime, hanging with the wrong people and causing a lot of disruption in the community. This was my path – for me, there was no turning back. I could see my future and it was in prison.

“By the age of 12, I became involved in the Garda Youth Diversion Project. I attended the pool club every Tuesday night. We loved it here. We queued at the gates for hours waiting to get in and to see who would get the best pool cue. I was hooked; I wanted to be part of here.

“I now know that these drop-in nights were so important…where young people like myself made positive relationships. I became involved in many groups, such as the girls’ group and the equine project.

“Also, at the time, I’d no place in mainstream secondary school, so I started going to St Augustine’s School and, here, I found my passion for sports and particularly soccer. I really believe the combination of support from the school, the Garda Youth Diversion Project and my involvement in sports has moulded me to be the person I am today.

“Throughout my teenage years, I stayed involved and became a youth leader. I volunteered in after-school clubs, running pool competitions and coaching soccer. I found a new passion and saw a future for myself working with young people – something I was good at; something I could be successful in.

“When I finished school, I studied childcare and special needs…then, with the support from Céim ar Chéim and Corpus Christi National School, I completed a diploma in youth and community development from [University College Cork].

A new Moyross

“Today, I stand here as a proud member of my community, but also as a staff member of Moyross Development Company. It’s true what they say: ‘When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

“In my role here, I’m giving back to my community. I have an understanding of where the young people are coming from. I get it and I get them.

“[This new facility] is a place where everyone is welcome, where everyone can feel safe and where young people can dream, discover and learn. We have the space to create opportunities for young people and, with further support, the potential here is endless.

“I know over the years Moyross has received a lot of bad press. After today, I hope you can see the opportunities that are being created here and know that a new Moyross is emerging.

“There’s new housing and a new community centre on the way, and there’s a new generation of young people who, through pathways of education, continue to inspire in their community, and aspire towards their goals through hard work and dedication.”