Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

1 February 2001 Edition

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St. Teresa's Gardens is full of hope

Last week's Prime Time investigatiion of deprivation in St Teresa's Gardens painted a bleak picture of this inner city flats complex and its inhabitants. Here ANDREW O'CONNELL, a resident of St Teresa's, takes issue with this negative portrayal, which he believes stigmatises his and other similar communities and outlines positive developments initiated by the community.

Dying, miserable, lonely, abandoned, unemployed, strung out, anti-social, socially disadvantaged and sad are all labels the media has used in their reporting of every local authority estate and flats complex in Dublin and other cities over the last 50 years. My reason for writing this article is to voice my own hurt, anger, and irritation at the way my community has been used by the media and secondly to speak up for those who do not possess the means to do likewise. It is also to show that hope is alive and well and busy in St. Teresa's Gardens on Dublin's Donore Avenue.

There is huge potential for change in St. Teresa's Gardens. There is huge potential in the people who live in my flats
I believe that the media's job is to report the issues fairly and to the point. The last number of years, however, have seen a growth in sensationalism, shock publicity and spin doctoring by the established press and in turn this has led to a lot of communities being wary of the media. What I believe should be true in the media and life is not what it is made out to be. Not once in my life have I or anybody in my community ever been asked by RTE, TV3 or the daily newspapers what we would like the media to publish or televise. RTE has never come to St. Teresa's Gardens to ask the people what they think of RTE. If RTE see this story they might decide to come and hear what people think about in the real world. Till then I await that day.

RTE's Primetime documentary about the lives of a small handful of the tenants who live in St. Teresa's Gardens has created huge anger among the other 1,000 or so residents of the flats since the show was aired last Thursday night. These people feel betrayed by the producers of the documentary, who gave a completely one-sided view of what life is really like for the general population in the flats.

What was shown in the programme exceeded the meaning of the word disturbing. Anyone not familiar with St. Teresa's Gardens or the many other communities residing in flats complexes would have walked away from the TV believing the flats were a complete dump and a place infested with scumbags. However, that is not the case and for anyone making that judgement I would say to them come and live here for two weeks and meet the people.

Yet for the residents who live here on a day-to-day basis these are just a few of the issues they must face and overcome. The documentary has stigmatised the whole community, including young kids and teenagers. One mother in the flats is very worried about the effects it will have on the children's future work prospects. The issues covered, which I agree were extremely sensitive, nevertheless did not warrant the tabloid spin placed on them by RTE.

Another issue I must question is the motives behind bringing RTE into the flats. I can only assume they were invited in by the residents' committee in an attempt to try use the media to highlight some of the issues which had come to a standstill and which urgently need addressing. Unfirtunately, the media often have their own agenda and certainly in this case it is the community that is stigmatised and left picking up the pieces afterwards.

Those who work and live in the flats have already felt the effects of this fallout. Quotes like ``did you see that programme on Teresa's Gardens last night, the place is full of scumbags'' was said to one woman. She replied: ``I live there and it's nothing like they made out.''

``How the hell can you bring up your kids in that dump,'' was said to another neighbour of mine by his workmates.

Of the film that was shot only the really negative footage was dramatised. I spoke to Thomas Redmond on Tuesday night and he was very angry with the producers for cutting out all his positive comments. Thomas was the young man on the programme who didn't see any Celtic Tiger in St. Teresa's Gardens. Thomas in fact has a job lined up when he completes his Leaving Cert this year.

There is huge potential for change in St. Teresa's Gardens. There is huge potential in the people who live in my flats. In the kids I see each day and the teenagers I talk to on a regular basis I witness great talent, yet a lack of official support is still letting many of them fall through the system.

What has happened in other refurbished communities can happen in St. Teresa's Gardens. With hard work, grit and determination, St. Teresa's Gardens can be a vibrant community again. The work to make this change has been ongoing since 1994 and with the political will, it will be achieved sooner rather than later. I hope it will spur some sort of real and meaningful response by those state agencies who haven't got into first gear yet.

The following are some of the positive developments that RTE failed to highlight in its portrayal of St. Teresa's Gardens.

A soccer co-ordinator is now employed in the community working with the children.
A homework club is operating for schoolgoing children and has a full time teacher.
Two full time youth workers are assigned to the complex and surrounding parish.
Two Corporation estate management staff work out of the estate management office in the complex.
There is an Environement/Employment office with a full time co-ordinator working in the flats.
Five local men are funded by FAS on Jobs Initiative programmes working in the community.
An integrated service project has been set up and is in the early stages of trying to redress the balance on a number of gaps identified by the community.
Dublin Corporation is centrally involved in implementing the plan to make St. Teresa's Gardens a better place for all to live and bring up their children.
A number of groups in the parish, including Vista, The Mercy Family Centre, The Small Club, and St. Catherine's Combined provide support and employment to a substantial number of residents and children from the flats and surrounding parish.
A new FAS project will reopen soon in the complex providing jobs for a supervisor and staff.
Additional funding has been secured for the boxing club, soccer club, The Small club and the youth centre committee to upgrade facilities.
i Contrary to the impression given by the programme, there are two full size grass soccer pitches at the back of the flats.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1