Staff members of the various community organisations working out of the Moneymore Community House launch their plan for a new community Centre for the Moneymore and North Drogheda area.
So said the former Governor of Mountjoy Jail, John Lonergan, at a meeting in May 2019 at which Community leaders in Moneymore called for a state of the art Community Centre to be built in the area.
In January this year the Chief Executive of Louth County Council, Joan Martin, gave a commitment that the Council and other agencies would implement a raft of measures to improve the quality of life in the Moneymore area.
Yesterday the project took another big step forward when Moneymore Community Consortium launched its Business Plan, prepared by S3 Solutions, for the development of a Community centre for Moneymore and North Drogheda.
Operating from three small Local Authority houses pre-Covid, service providers based in the Moneymore area face major challenges as the country begins to emerge from the pandemic.
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The collateral damage on the community, families and young people already reeling from the impact of the Drogheda criminal feud, cannot be overlooked. Nor can the implications of social distancing on the delivery of services.
Even before Covid, the converted residential properties from which the services operate, were deemed unfit to meet the growing demands for family and youth supports in one of the most deprived communities in the country.
This is the message coming from Connect FRC, Moneymore Afterschool Club and Foroige Cable Garda Youth Diversion Project, all based in Moneymore, with services extending across North Drogheda and into Mid-Louth.
“There definitely seems to have been a significant impact on the mental health of young people during the pandemic” says Allen O’Donoghue, a Youth Justice Worker with Foroige CABLE Project.
“We have had young people report to us that they have been experiencing increased levels of loneliness, isolation and anxiety. As a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, some of the services we would normally refer young people onto were closed to appointments and it was very difficult to get advice or support around these issues leaving both young people and youth workers feeling really concerned about the short and long term impact.”
“For us, with the new requirements in relation to social distancing, the numbers we can allow into the project is significantly decreased and the availability of suitable premises is practically non-existent, further highlighting the need for a purpose built space for the Moneymore area.”
The After School Club has operated in no 43 Moneymore since 1997, and in 2009 was awarded by the Ombudsman for Children for the excellence of the work it does.
Already hampered by lack of space pre-Covid, it can now only facilitate eight children at a time, plus staff. “We’ve always had a waiting list” said Edel Fairclough Coordinator of the Afterschool Club, “but now we are turning even more children away. In addition, funding is based on the number of children, so we are under a severe financial threat.”
‘CONNECR FRC closed its doors to the public for 14 weeks but continued to work remotely and via outreach work. ‘The demand and need for our service increased by 40% during the COVID 19 pandemic. Ours is a family support service. An element of our work includes the delivery of food through our FEAD programme. During the pandemic we delivered an additional 500 non- perishable food hampers to families as well as older, vulnerable and cocooning community members.
“Our counselling service continued to operate remotely to new and existing clients alongside well- being programmes, parenting programmes and family competitions. Individual supports continued by phone and zoom and where required referrals were made to community Garda and the County Louth Community call service” said Coordinator Cliodhna Cunningham.
All organisations agree that while the impact on mental health, employment rates, increased pressure on family relationships and financial stability Moneymore area has retained a strong sense of community.
The reality is that CONNECT FRC, a vital part of the community, will be unable to resume many of the supports and services required due to the size of the centre and the impossibility of social distancing in a building which is unfit for purpose.
This is mirrored by other organisations in the area Foroige Cable Project and Moneymore Afterschool club. ‘A new community centre would mean more space enabling us to provide more developmental work safely. We could run face to face courses with small groups so that young people can interact safely with their peers.’
‘We could, as a community provide recreational activities, improve community interaction and prevent young people from drifting into crime’ commented Tina Kearney.’
“The need for a purpose built Community Building within the Moneymore Townland area has never been greater.’
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