GE2020 - Not much has changed in the past four years

By Mary Dennehy

ACCESS is the key word for many constituents across Dublin South West, as communities struggle to access healthcare, housing, funding, public services, facilities and supports.  

Looking back at The Echo’s General Election 2016 coverage, the health system, housing, homelessness, a lack of Garda resources, crime, anti-social behaviour and cuts to community services were among the issues raised on the doorstep.

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Aerial shot of Tallaght from Airton/Belgard Road area

As we look forward to General Election 2020, it can be said that not much has changed in the last four years – as these issues remain firmly fixed on the agenda.

This week, we spoke with a number of people working on the ground in Dublin South West to hear what issues they’re raising with election candidates. 

Shane Hamilton, the manager of JADD (Jobstown Assisting Drug Dependancy), said: “The state of health, housing and access to services.

“Waiting lists, access to beds, access to metal health services, access to secure, long-term accommodation…these are the struggles people are experiencing in their lives and we’re seeing it every day on the front line.

“On a whole housing and health are at a completely different standard than what they have been – and when I say standard, I mean a bad standard.

“This is all against a backdrop of criminality in communities.

“This is what I would be saying to any election candidate who knocked on JADD’s door.”

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Shane Hamilton from JADD

Mr Hamilton also believes that there has been an increase in social issues due to poly drug use within communities.

However, on a positive note, Mr Hamilton said there is an increase in discussion and dialogue within communities around poly drug use, with the conversation reaching the drug task force.

In relation to funding for drug projects, Mr Hamilton said that while more money was invested into JADD this year, he would like to see funding delivered on a more permanent, long-term basis – which would allow services to plan for the community.

Election candidates knocking on the Firhouse Central Remedial Clinic’s (CRC) door are being asked about a number of ongoing issues, with accessibility for all high on the list.

Speaking with The Echo, Louise Walsh, a senior support worker with Firhouse CRC said that access to transport, respite, health care packages and public toilet facilities for people with disabilities are ongoing issues – which staff and clients are continuously lobbying for.

According to Ms Walsh, many of CRC’s clients use power chairs which, bigger than a standard wheelchair, do not fit down the aisle of buses or easily into wheelchair accessible bathrooms.

In relation to home care packages, she said: “Some of our clients only get a couple of hours a week when they could do with a full home care package.

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Louise Walsh from Firhouse CRC

“We’re noticing the impact of this on our clients every day and the strain that it puts on family’s as well, who may be providing care.

“We also need more respite facilities.

“The Government’s simply saying the money’s not there.”

She added: “Everything’s a battle.

“We know that things take time to put in place but it’s an uphill struggle [trying to access supports] all of the time.”

Liam Byrne, of the Crosscare food bank in Tallaght, spoke with The Echo about how increasing rents and the general cost of living is putting huge pressure on some individuals and families.

Since opening in 2014, the Crosscare foodbank in Tallaght, which caters for people right across the constituency, has experienced continued demand – with plans in the pipeline to open a second foodbank in Tallaght in the coming months.

“There’s more and more people struggling, we’re seeing an increase all the time”, Mr Byrne said.

“People are struggling to pay rents, due to high rent increases, and all of the bills to keep their home running… sometimes there’s no money left for food.

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Liam Byrne from Crosscare

“In general the cost of living has increased, people just can’t cater for everything going on.”

While housing and health has dominated the first few days of the election campaign nationally, a situation which has been mirrored at grass roots level, other issues including the environment and sustainable development are also on the radar.

Questions are being asked about the future development of areas, like Citywest, where residents are concerned that infrastructure and community facilities are not being delivered in tandem with new housing estates.

In Rathfarnham, like most areas across the constituency, issues around increased crime, anti-social behaviour and adequate Garda resources is also being highlighted – with residents calling for additional community police.

Whatever issue constituents are voting on, it’s sure to be a competitive race to fill the coveted five seats in Dublin South West.

See next week’s Echo for further coverage on the issues affecting you, plus a full list of candidates running in Dublin South West and a constituency profile.

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