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Thursday, 22nd July 2021

New plan is key to Drogheda's future but politicians must keep up the pressure

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The Chair of the new Drogheda Implementation Board, Drogheda man Michael Keogh. 

If the plan, Drogheda: Building a Bridge to a Better Future, lives up to its name it will undoubtedly usher in a new era for a town that has been side-lined for far too long.

Vivian Guerin is to be congratulated on the thoroughness of his report and he has handed down a considerable challenge to the people whose job it is to implement his recommendations.

The optics from yesterday’s launch are good however, and if the political promises come to fruition then we, and future generations of Drogheda people, can look forward to a much brighter future.

A week is a long time on politics though and Minnisters have many issues to deal with. So it is vital that our local representatives in Dáíl Éireann and in the Council must keep the pressure on.

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It was encouraging to hear strong messages from both Michael Keogh, the Chair of the new Drogheda Implementation Board, and Martin O’Brien, Chief Executive of the Louth and Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB), in regard to getting the new structures up and running as soon as possible.

Both men have the experience, and now the support, both political and from a Board comprised of local representatives of relevant agencies and state bodies, to get the job done and, if they are true to their word, neither will be afraid of asking the hard questions.

The plan has the safety and security of the people of Drogheda at its heart but it goes far beyond simply ramping up the battle against the merciless criminals operating the illicit drugs trade.

It outlines a wide-ranging programme of actions to improve the quality of life and services for all of our citizens with a special emphasis on services for young people.

At just 34 pages long this is a small enough document but there are nuggets of gold on almost every page any one of which, if they come to pass, will benefit the local community greatly. It is a big shopping list though!

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys pictured at the launch of the plan for Drogheda yesterday at DIFE with Deputies Fergus O’ Dowd (FG), Ged Nash (Lab) and Ruairí Ó Murchú (SF).

Here are the eleven main strands of the plan with some of the headline actions proposed in each:

Cross-Agency Coordination

  • Inter-agency cooperation is a recurring theme and there will be a high level oversight group representing eleven Government Departments co-ordinated by a Safety and Wellbeing Implementation Board chaired by Drogheda man Michael Keogh.

Addressing Crime

  • To implement, as a matter of urgency, an intensive wraparound service for vulnerable children and young people exposed to and involved in organised crime.
  • To continue and increase funding to the CABLE and BOYNE Garda Youth Diversion Projects.
  • Strengthening of Community policing particularly in the town centre and suburban areas.
  • Allocate additional Probation Service resources immediately to the Louth team, to allow adequate focus on and resourcing of responses to drug-related offending, young people involved in crime and related projects.
  • Explore how to demonstrate to local communities in a visible and practical way that money and other resources seized from organised criminals is, in effect, used to provide funding for community and other services.
  • Explore how to address the impact of the county boundaries of Louth and Meath, and the corresponding delineation between Garda Districts/Divisions, specifically in relation to the policing of the Laytown-Bettystown area of East Meath.
  • Roll-out of new scheme similar to “See it. Say it” as well as Community Alerts system in the Drogheda area.

Drug Use

  • Additional funding to be agreed and allocated to the Red Door project from earmarked Dormant Accounts funding.
  • HSE, North Eastern Regional Drugs Task Force, Red Door and Probation Service to engage on how services can be developed and to eliminate overlapping or duplication of services; examine potential to step up the engagement with Social Work and Probation with the aim of considering the use of Red Door facility as a “one-stop-shop”.
  • Ensure full implementation of all appropriate harm reduction measures, as mandated by the National Drugs Strategy, including Needle and Syringe Programmes (NSP) and Naloxone, in Drogheda.

Youth and Community Development Facilities

  • The Northside/Moneymore community hub facility should continue to be progressed. This facility should accommodate the provision of services currently provided by bodies forming the Moneymore Consortium, as well as providing a hub for a wider array of community services, provided by statutory as well as community and voluntary agencies.
  • The relevant bodies should commence, as a priority, exploratory moves including local consultations, to provide a similar facility on the Southside of the town, in the general Rathmullan area.

Specific Services for Children and Young People

  • Ensure that the good work initiated and under way recently, to coordinate child protection and welfare and other children’s services, is maintained and further developed.

Education and Training

  • Brigid’s and St. Patrick’s NS, St. Joseph’s CBS, and Presentation NS, to get an increase in DEIS status from Band 2 to 1 – should be granted to the three schools immediately, at least on an interim emergency basis, at a minimum until (a) the passing of the worst impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and (b) improvement in the overall crime and related social situation in Drogheda, and (c) completion of any formal update review by the Department of Education.
  • Explore the potential for more apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programmes in Drogheda, and specifically through DIFE.
  • Explore the potential for locating a ‘branch’ of DKIT in Drogheda, and also for the development of DKIT ‘feeder’ programmes – particularly those related to vocational and professional education and training – operating in Drogheda.

Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation

  • Develop a strategic plan for the development of opportunities in the arts, culture and sports in the Drogheda area, specifically those aimed at and involving young people.
  • Explore opportunities for developing a centre of sporting excellence in Drogheda.
  • Explore potential for increased use of the Boyne river, the sea and other local amenities that could lend themselves to development of different sporting disciplines and opportunities.
  • Explore the possibility of making the Aura Leisure Centre available to the public as a community facility in the Drogheda area.
  • Consider ways in which local sporting and cultural role models can be identified and employed in initiatives in engaging young people in particular in healthy and prosocial activities and implement as appropriate.
  • Explore ways in which existing facilities in Drogheda (e.g. Lourdes Stadium, or DIFE can be used to maximize their potential for the benefit of the local community.

Local Authority Organisation and Services

  • As a matter of urgency and priority, Louth and Meath County Councils to agree an appropriate mechanism or ‘vehicle’ for the generation, agreement and implementation of a joint local development plan for Drogheda Town in its entirety, and including the appropriate area of East Meath, particularly the Laytown-Bettystown area of County Meath.
  • LCC to consider ways to ensure greater Council presence, visibility and engagement in Drogheda.
  • Local Authority to consider and decide on an effective way of responding to and managing anti-social behaviour by its tenants and others as appropriate.
  • Local Authority also to put in place effective ways of responding to estate management issues that can assist in addressing anti-social behaviour (e.g., closing off alleyways, cutting back or removing hedging, installing lighting or speed ramps on roads etc).
  • Louth County Council to engage as a matter of urgency with residents of Moneymore and Castlemanor (and any other stakeholders as appropriate), with a view to closing off the offending ‘gap’ and taking other measures arising; or else finding a mutually acceptable and reasonable resolution to this issue.

Local Infrastructure and Assets

  • Local Authority to clarify, for the relevant governance and oversight bodies, the potential value and specific contribution that the PANCR and other similar strategic local developments can add to the combined efforts at improving community wellbeing in Drogheda.
  • Local Authority (and others as appropriate) progress the West Gate Vision plan for Drogheda Town centre.
  • Local Authority clarify what the Fáilte Ireland ‘Destination Town’ designation can bring to Drogheda, and how this can be progressed accordingly. As part of this, establish Fáilte Ireland presence/tourist information office in the Town.
  • Local Authority (and others as appropriate) explore and clarify the potential for future use of the Dominican Church and Priory in Drogheda Town.
  • As part of strategic planning for the development of the Town, explore ways in which to develop and promote Drogheda as a healthier and welcoming town.

Employment, Enterprise and Development

  • Local Authority and other relevant stakeholders - consider possibility to develop a new business and technology park on the North side of Drogheda.
  • Explore ways to develop productive links – in terms of promoting employment opportunities – with appropriate third level institutions.
  • Explore potential for enterprise initiatives and job creation in the agri-food sector.
  • Consider ways to reduce the impact of crime and antisocial behavior on business and employment in the Town.
  • Ensure that community Garda foot patrols in the town centre and more widely are maintained.
  • Explore ways to attract or facilitate at least some of the estimated 15,000 people from Drogheda who commute to other locations for work every day back to work in the Town.

Ethnic and Racial Issues

  • All stakeholders – consider the practical implications of the recently (2020) launched Louth Meath Joint Integration Strategy and implement accordingly.
  • Explore and identify any existing or emerging issues of racial tension in the area and agree steps to deal with these.
  • Plan at oversight group level how to engage with and involve the traveller and Roma communities in the area to a greater extent than currently, to include specific actions.
  • LLP to progress actions already identified to engage and build development capacity in the traveller and Roma communities.
  • HSE and other partners - build on positive engagement made with travellers and Roma during the course of the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The full plan is available to download here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c179b-drogheda-report-implementation-plan/

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