Ballybough’s unsung heroes stand together
By Elizabeth Doherty
Martin Luther King Jr famously said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
This week as ordinary Dubliners panicked about the prospect of gang war, the good people continued to do their work in the communities directly affected, to stop fear in its path.
After two gangland murders sent shockwaves through Dublin – Ireland Today speaks to a community worker in the working class neighbourhood of Ballybough, where the latest killing took place.
Treacy Byrne, Centre Manager at Ballybough Community Centre, a vital facility for young and old, has her doors open until 10pm.
That won’t change despite a bloody rise in tensions between two infamous Dublin gangs.
And in the wake of the murders – the second which took place on Monday night – only two minutes away from the centre – Treacy urged others to open their doors to light up community spirit in the midst of darkness.
Treacy, who has been involved with the community centre since it was just an architect’s drawing – said at this time in particular it was now extremely important for Ballybough to stick together.
“I am glad to have the centre open till 10pm at night so people can come in. The local agencies should really try to reach out to people in the area and also the centre here is open 8am-10pm each day.
“This place gives young people a safe, friendly environment they can be part off. They may grow up in flats where there is little space and no gardens, so the centre gives them recreational facilities to use.
“It helps educate them on different aspects of life and gives them something to do. The youth workers can help with young people if they are having problems.
“They also run developmental groups so this educates young people on growing up and on certain challenges they may face.”
Though Ballybough is in the news right now for the wrong reasons – people like Treacy are busy in the background, away from the TV cameras, doing their bit for the better of the community – helping to steer young men away from crime.
Just providing a safe place, where the young can hang out, get involved in an activity is a prevention against them falling in to a negative lifestyle.
The Ballybough Youth project is also based in the centre. They carry out vital work with 10 to 21 year olds in the area.
“The work they do is extremely important and reaches young people who are at high risk,” Treacy said.
It is very important people and young people are there for each other and can talk about what is happening in the community, she added.
“The dedicated youth workers will be making sure all this (the latest murder) is talked about and feelings are heard.
“We just opened a gym here so I am glad it is such a hit with the community. It gives them somewhere to come and work out which will have a positive impact on them.”
It is clear, no one ever carries out such work for wealth or prestige – they do it because they care. Treacy and the other workers and volunteers at the centre are no different.
She recently applied for money to set up the new gym which opened on January 4 – a place where families and friends will now hopefully gather more than ever in the coming days.
I have worked in the area for 10 years and have got to know many great people, who are all friendly and I have never felt any negativity here, Treacy said.
“The community really help in the centre and take part in classes. There is a dedicated voluntary group in Ballybough, who are doing really great voluntary work with the under tens, including working to set up a homework club and running summer projects. Some of the locals volunteer with Dublin City Council and the Youth Project.”
And while the residents are working to build a stronger community – with the centre at its heart – people like Treacy and numerous nameless and faceless heroes, offer their best every day of the week.
While the evil acts of Friday and Monday may have struck in to the heart of civilised Dublin – the ordinary mothers and fathers, teenagers and young men and women, are clearly very resilient as they continue their daily lives in peace – and ensure they remain a part of the centre.
“There are all age ranges using the centre, starting with a childcare centre which is dedicated to 2 to 4 year olds,” Treacy said.
“We have a jobs clubs, which is for men and women, from mainly 30 to 40 year olds.
“And the gym and fitness classes are for 16 year olds and above and it has a lot of new members.
“Our classes are full, with spinning and boxercise being the most popular.”
The centre also houses a men’s health project which runs twice a year, working with males between 40 and 60.
The women’s art class is mainly occupied by women aged 40 and up.
Children’s classes are provided for the under tens while there is a childcare centre to help busy working parents.
Computer, cookery, Irish dancing, pilates and yoga, are all activities on offer here.
And while the news of hatred and fear in this community on Monday night, may be making the headlines – this centre’s story has gone untold – but Treacy does not wish it to be forgotten.
“On a very positive note the centre just recently won The Chambers of Ireland Award for Health and Wellbeing.
“We have become a template of what a multi-functional centre should be.”
It seems that the community in general deserves an award too – for standing together against the darkness, together, not divided by hate.