Friday, December 2, 2011

'My trade unionist Dad set me on social justice path'

Declan Dunne giving a talk last year on health awareness. Photo courtesy of New Communities Partnership.
Declan Dunne is the CEO of Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership* since 2003 and he worked for 3 years before that in economic development in Clondalkin/CPLN. Some years earlier, he employed 157 people in the private sector.

What are you reading at the moment?
Lots of junk fiction! Also it may sound pretentious but the Harvard Business Review is accessible, concise and practical.
Person you most admire?
Sylda Langford who was, until recently, the Director of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. She left a hugely positive legacy for children and families. Gordon Jeyes the HSE National Director for Children and Family Services is very inspiring. He is quoted as saying that one way to boost efficiency is to use services to put more emphasis on personal responsibility, with the onus on communities to solve problems at local level.

The top 4 issues in Ireland today besides the economy?
1.   Learning again that life is short, whatever is going on, each day can be lived consciously and appreciated. Small acts of kindness have lifelong impacts.
2.    Effective safeguarding of children.
3.   A more equal society is a safer more rewarding place to live.
4.  Health is wealth; it’s our responsibility to actively invest in our health
Nationally, we need more?
·     Validation and encouragement.
·     Humility in victory
·     Rediscovery of the enjoyment that flows naturally from serving society. Contribution without expectation.
We need less?
Glee in fault finding.
How and why did you get involved?
My background is in the private sector. I started a business as a young person employing 157 people which I later sold to an American Multinational so I might not appear to be an obvious person to end up in this work. However, I went to school in Keogh Square (later called St Michaels Estate) in Dublin which was not that different to Ballymun and my secondary education was funded by a Dublin City Council scholarship. My Dad was a trade unionist and he sowed the seeds of social justice that now inform my work.
What difference has being involved made to you?
Lots of personal learning, more grey hair and no shortage of challenges. Great enjoyment and lots of hard work.
Ballymun’s landscape has changed greatly in recent years and Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership is to the forefront of much of the work in the area and beyond. Declan Dunne is the CEO.

How have things changed for your community since you became involved?
Eighty per cent of the regeneration, demolition and rehousing is complete. Significant improvement is evident in primary education outcomes. IKEA employs about 70 local people. 72 local businesses have come together as one network Ballymun4business. All school principals work together as one network supported by us. Local people are no longer stigmatised. Local people’s community spirit is acknowledged near and far. Their Axis Arts and Community Centre has won national awards and travelled to perform from New York to Cape Town. It’s truly awe-inspiring.
What motivates you as a volunteer?
My role as chair of the Holy Spirit Boys School, the largest boys primary school in Ballymun, is a voluntary role. It is a great privilege and honour to try to be of service to these children and families. The children, parents and teachers inspire me.
How do you get new volunteers?
Locally, the Partnership has a contract with the Dublin City North Volunteer Centre which provides an outreach service from our premises. We have a high level of volunteer participation on our board, working groups and networks with over 165 people involved.
For more information about Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership contact Declan or any staff member on: 01-8423612

Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership is contracted by the Government through Pobal to address social problems related to poverty and social exclusion.
Declan is a non-executive director of Ballymun Regeneration. He is a member of the Irish National Childcare Coordination Committee at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and holds a number of other directorships.

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