The former Governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan, during his inspiring speech in Drogheda yesterday. Photo: Andy Spearman.
“Often social crises such as you are experiencing in Drogheda can be a great opportunity to put pressure on and to say ‘we need a community centre and not a Mickey Mouse community centre either, we want a state of the art community service in Moneymore.
“It should have been delivered 40 years ago. As the bricks were being laid for the house, so should the bricks of the welfare services have been laid.”
These stirring words were spoken yesterday in Drogheda by the former Governor of Mountjoy Jail, John Lonergan, at a meeting at which Community leaders in Moneymore called for a state of the art community Centre to be built in the area.
The people of Moneymore have been paying the price of poor planning for decades, ever since 1979 in fact, when the first phase of the estate opened with absolutely no facilities for the people moving into their new homes.
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In 1981, with the opening of phase two, they did get a public telephone. Happy days! It was vandalised a long time ago.
On the face of it the area would not appear to have a lot going for it. Unemployment rates are more than double the average and it’s a similar story with deprivation. These of course are the main ingredients for all sorts of problems from anti-social behaviour to
Out of necessity though, some extremely good community organisations have sprung up and some amazing community workers have been working away for many years supporting the community in a myriad of ways from after school clubs, childcare, mental and physical health, food parcels, counselling – the list goes on – all with little by way of facilities.
They’re not happy about the situation, and they will soldier on for now, but they know that, given more staff and a purpose built community centre, they could achieve so much more.
At yesterday’s meeting in the Church of Ireland hall in Peter Street, these community groups, Cable, Connect Family Resource Centre, Moneymore Afterschool Club, presented for the first time in public their plan of campaign to achieve their goal of a new centre.
They have drawn up a feasibility study that, if implemented, has the potential to radically change the lives of current and future generations of people in the greater Moneymore area. They have identified a site and they reckon the centre will cost in the region of €1.5m.
Representatives of all of the organisations spoke about the various issues affecting their ability to fulfil their role and all had one in common – the lack of a proper building with sufficient space to carry out their work. They are currently working out of two up, two down houses.
Mairead Davis of the Connect Family Resource Centre summed the situation up well when she said that the Connect house is so small that if there is one to one counselling going on in one room they have to turn the radio up so people in the other rooms can’t hear what is being said.
John Lonergan said that he always marvelled at the impact of the work carried out by people such as the community workers he was speaking to.
“They are at the coalface working quietly, making a massive impact day in and day out. They’re never out looking for recognition they just serve their community” he said.
“Where would we be without them, could you imagine? Not just Drogheda but every town and village in the country would just collapse.
Referring to the criminality in Drogheda currently he said that crisis situations can be opportunities as well. “Don’t allow the negatives to take over” he said.
“The media love the negative stuff because it sells newspapers. They used to call Limerick “Stab City” and that was insulting to 99% of the people in Limerick city because they weren’t stabbing people they were decent people. Don’t let that happen in Drogheda.
He said that the cost of a community centre, whether its €1.5m or 2.5m, is insignificant in relation to the cost in human terms of not providing one.
This article was written by Andy Spearman
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