Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Zen and the Art of Local development

by Robert Carey

Anyone who read Robert Pirsig’s best selling cult book (most likely in their younger years) ‘Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance’ and claimed they understood every word could most kindly be accused of being self-deluded.
It was possible however for us mere mortals to glean the essence of some very important concepts. One of these, which was the tension between an empirical approach to life and a more qualitative approach, resonates highly for people today across a range of sectors, not least for those working in local development.
Our work is now dominated by outputs, indicators, logic models, audits, accounting, etc.
This is not to deny the importance of numbers, accounting and systems. They provide necessary structure within which the core work can be carried out and they can also contribute to value for money and in the case of numerical reports for example inform future work.
The importance of finding the correct balance however was illustrated for me at the AGM last week of the company in which I work:

10,700 unemployed people set up their own jobs

And in turn created work for 700 more...

Every working day, an average of 23.4 new jobs are being created through the Government’s main community-level, social inclusion programme.
This is one of the unrivalled achievements of the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP) as highlighted in a new report by Pobal.
The 108-page ‘Supporting Inclusion Through Self-Employment’ shows that the LCDP offers virtually nationwide, start-to-finish support for unemployed people with good business ideas.
As a result, over the past two years, close to 12,000 new jobs were created in Ireland by unemployed people with small enterprise ideas:
- 10,726 were created by people who set up small businesses;
- a further 717 jobs were created in turn by them for others.
Remarkably, two-thirds of the enterprises have got past the difficult first two years, the research demonstrates. Approximately 8,000 of the jobs remain in existence at the present time, many of the businesses are flourishing and new hopefuls are entering the marketplace every day.

Town’s spirit rises as volunteers show up with tea and chocs

Working on a shoestring budget, sustained by tea bags, mars bars and a good sense of humour, Borrisokane Community Forum is doing what was done by paid local community workers until recently.
Volunteers in Borrisokane are showing that a huge amount can be achieved by local people working together,” said forum chairperson Miriam Lewis and fellow-volunteer Catriona Lennon.
But such volunteer effort is not a limitless resource. There needs to be more hands on support for initiatives such as ours. The State can’t just pull the plug on community development in local communities.
The €1,346.20 spent by the Taoiseach’s Department on tea and coffee in one month would finance this hard working group for at least 3 or 4 months” said Miriam.

- In the absence of a full time community worker, volunteers in Borrisokane are doing it for themselves

Mounttown’s late-night soccer heroes

Oasis Project 5 a side team - winners of Dublin's Late Night Soccer League
Oasis Project 5-a-side team - Winners of Dublin's Late Night Soccer League
Boys known for getting up to far more than mere mischief on the streets of south Dublin are heroes in their communities now, having switched from the streets to become aces on the football field, taking home the champion’s cup. Romy Carroll from Southside Partnership reports:

We’ve done the community proud” said Oasis player Zach Doolin.
The players gave 110% in training each night” said Dave Hennessy, project worker with the Oasis Project.
A strong and supportive crowd turned out to cheer on the Mounttown Oasis Project’s Five-A-Side Football Team in Irishtown on the day they were crowned winners of Dublin’s Late Night Soccer League, organised by FAI and An Garda Síochána.
My experience of the late night soccer league was really positive” said Zach, “because it got a bunch of groups to come together every Friday night instead of being in trouble on the streets causing problems. It’s been a great event and it’s given me an urge to get back playing football.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Workers’ concerns to be addressed “shortly” - Minister

Follow-up sought after first union-dept meeting 

Darragh O Connor SIPTU
Darragh O'Connor of SIPTU
SIPTU and Department representatives met on September 24 to discuss issues arising for workers from the rolling out of proposals in ‘Putting People First’ particularly “alignment” (closer ties between local authorities and local communities as part of the broad programme for reforming local government).
SIPTU official Darragh O’Connor said afterwards, “We asked, ‘Who will deliver the LCDP and RDP programmes?’ ‘What role will the Local Authorities have?’ ‘Will there be redundancies?’”
However, one meeting for the delegation, led by SIPTU Vice President Patricia King, was not sufficient: “Workers need a place to have their issues around alignment addressed... not just a one-off meeting. We are locked out as big decisions are made by the Department and employers,” said Mr O’Connor.
Minister Phil Hogan
Minister Phil Hogan
While the Government is introducing major changes nationally to the structures through which Local Development Companies operate, the companies themselves are legally the employers.
The companies are currently negotiating with Department officials via a working group on alignment.
Minister Phil Hogan told the Dail on October 3rd: “In a couple of weeks time, we will know the structures and we will have further discussions with unions.”
He said the working group was about to complete its work and he would report back to the Dail then “on the next stage of the process, to assure workers we will continue to have a very strong community and local government partnership approach to the delivery of services to the people.”
He emphasised, “My Department has no role in the internal operations of the companies and, accordingly, does not have a role in staff or employment matters.”
However, Dail deputies Eric Byrne and Joan Collins pointed out the companies were community-led and objected to the “delay” in opening talks with SIPTU.

Experience points to embracing our urban cowboys

- Reframing sulky riding in a positive context
By Allen Meagher
Anyone who’s seen the video of sulky riders taking over both sides of the Cork-Mallow road would be inclined to think sulky racing was a menace.
Indeed, prosecutions did follow, an outcome welcomed as much by community groups as by the general public.
However, the exception does not prove to be the rule and as Chrissie O’Sullivan from the Traveller Visibility Group (TVG) says of the urban horse culture, “media portrayal has not been helpful.”
She argues that, “The issue of horse ownership should never have become a negative issue.”
In 1996, legislation was introduced that made it almost impossible to legally own and ride a horse in an urban area.
The Control of Horses Act has not so much eroded the sub-culture, as driven it underground.
If a stranger were to enquire about who owns any of the dozen or so horses grazing on land across the road from ‘Changing Ireland’s office in Moyross, they’d have to wait until hell freezes over before they get an answer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Asylum seekers take court action over direct provision

A family of six has taken a High Court challenge against the Government’s direct provision scheme under which asylum-seekers are provided with accommodation and a small weekly allowance while their applications are being processed.
The processing of applications, with no guarantee of a satisfactory outcome, can take up to ten years. The family – from Africa - has been living under direct provision for over four years.
They argue that direct provision violates their rights to private and family life under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Step into my shoes! - Irish limbo: No weekends, work, holidays or privacy
We asked a former asylum-seeker to tell our readers what it’s like living in a direct provision centre. They recently acquired refugee status and moved into normal accommodation. The writer (who has availed of a number of courses run by their local development company) put themselves in the shoes of an ordinary Irish person looking in from outside:
There is no doubt we Irish pride ourselves on being humanitarian; that we like to give to help people outside the country who are in need. Charity giving is part of our history but how do we treat those people who fled their oppressive governments and have come to us for protection? 
That is a different thing. 
Like many Irish I live close to an asylum hostel in my city. I have seen some of the adults hanging around the shopping mall. It never occurred to me to find out about their living situation; not until I met and visited two women of my age who are seeking asylum here.

'Be wary of markets, boards and sharp elbows' Wheel conference told

Excellent speakers attended The Wheel’s conference during the summer, among them Martyn Evans, Mary Murphy and Brendan Halligan, REPORTS ALLEN MEAGHER.
Company boards were identified as the greatest barrier to advocacy work, co-operation is the way forward (no surprise) and we’ve to be wary of the market and “sharp-elbowed people”.
 Martyn Evans, CEO of the Carnegie UK Trust noted that the average life expectancy of Irish males had risen greatly in the past 100 years (from 53 to 79 years) and the current social system appeared to have served us well,
We're all healthier, wealthier, wiser, and certainly better educated. But income inequality in Ireland has changed very little, he noted. For example, 10% of children leave school unable to read.
While there have been massive improvements, they have been differentially distributed which is a sign of “system failure”.
One outcome, he said, was that less than 50% of people across Europe have trust in their governments, according to the OECD.

Fewer college drop-outs due to CDP

- Project impact on city outlined
Jennifer McMahon launching the report
Jennifer McMahon of UL officially launched Limerick City CDP's report
Limerick City Community Development Project (LCCDP) launched its annual report for 2012 in June and the report’s statistics underpin positive changes in people’s lives.
For instance, the project dispersed 166 bursaries* to third level students from Moyross, Southill, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Mary’s and St. Munchin’s.
“We know first hand, that due to delays with the (third level) grant system, the provision of funding by the CDP for registration, books and materials was vital for students to take up their places in third level,” said manager Juan Carlos Azzopardi.
The report was launched by the project’s new independent chairperson, Jennifer McMahon from UL.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Retrofit the country and we’ll save €3billion annually

- Tipperary communities have proven it can work (and creates work).
By Allan Stewart.*

The country pays out €6 billion annually for fossil fuel imports, yet communities in Co. Tipperary are uniquely demonstrating how we could halve that bill and create employment:
When active members of Drombane and Upperchurch in North Tipperary got together in 2011 to discuss economic solutions for their community, they considered many ideas - from wind farms to a local ski slope. After further meetings and talks with the Tipperary Energy Agency (TEA) and North Tipperary Leader Partnership (NTLP) they decided on a community retrofit scheme. This would convert many of the homes in the area to high energy performance homes that were warmer, save on household bills, while creating work in the locality.
Con Harrington, Michelle Putti, Michael Bell, Marcella Maher, Martin O'Donohue
Community Insulation Team
A local 'Energy Team' was formed to co-ordinate a cluster of home-owners, apply for grants from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and select contractors for the work. Completely new to the idea, it took many meetings and support from the local development company, NTLP, to get up and running and to get enough locals interested.
And it’s worked!
Last year, 22 homes were upgraded and this year 35 more homes and two community halls will be retrofitted. Currently, the 400 households in Drombane and Upperchurch spend €1,000,000 on home energy and once the whole community is retrofitted, the energy team expects it will save householders a total of over €250,000 per year (25%).

Publication of Mid-Term Review imminent

It has been confirmed that a much-anticipated report on the Local and Community Development Programme will be published shortly.
Clodagh McDonnell, Principal Officer with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, stated:
“The Mid-Term Review of the Local and Community Development Programme has been finalised and its recommendations will be taken on board in shaping the new successor programme to the LCDP, subject to funding provision in the upcoming budget, and, mindful, as is usual, of the continuing need for budgetary restraint and discipline.
“The Mid-Term Review is currently in limited circulation among chief stakeholders, including those in the Community and Voluntary Sector. The intention is to publish it post-budget, after October 15th,” she said.

Where do you read yours?

George Clancy reading Changing Ireland Issue 41 in Argentina.
We're looking for someone to beat international rugby referee George Clancy's impressive submission... Recently, we asked readers to send in snaps of themselves reading 'Changing Ireland' (print or online) in unusual places.

So far, we've seen 'Changing Ireland' being read in a stadium in San Juan, Argentina (George), in the Dail (Minister of State Jan O'Sullivan)  and at an awards ceremony in Cloughjordan, by President Higgins.
President Higgins holding the issue, and appearing in cartoon form on the front page. 

Whatever or where next??!! Email:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A whirlwind tour of Waterford with ‘Good man Jack’

By Robert McNamara
The sun gleamed pink on the new River Suir Bridge as ‘Changing Ireland’ scuttled along on our journey toward the Ireland’s oldest city.
Not even a debate with the toll lady about her aversion to accepting coppers as legal tender could sully that sight.

Jack Walsh of Waterford

On arrival, I found that the Waterford Area Partnership (WAP) was ingrained in my guide Jack Walsh’s fibre and, everywhere we went, people knew him and greeted him fondly.
“Hi Jack”, “Well Jack”, “Good man Jack”.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How Cooleen’s Close forged a new community pride

By Hilary Dilworth and Phil Shanahan

Residents of Cooleen’s Close in Clonmel town, Co. Tipperary, have banded together and forged a new community pride in the area by retaking waste ground, entering organic gardening and opening the door to outside support.
  Upon getting organised, the residents realised there were many more agencies and supports available to them than they had been aware of.  

Ex-prisoners turning their lives around in Ferrybank

Kenny Colfer displays one of U-Casadh's awards

By Robert McNamara
The place is bustling as ‘Changing Ireland’ comes through the door unannounced and seeking a story. We immediately get the impression that there are plenty here.
The warm vibe is instantly striking and we are greeted heartily by everyone who notices our arrival - a constant theme of our recent visits to LDC supported projects.
There’s an air of confidence about the place and while everyone is busy, there’s a distinct lack of stress and a steely concentration about the men carrying out the painting, woodwork and other jobs around the place.

Hormone therapy for transgender people

'Transgender Healthcare’ was the focus of the Transgender South-East Conference 2013. Held in February, it aimed to de-mystify the healthcare needs of transgender people and their families.
Participants heard that 32% of health and social care workers had provided treatment to a transgender person, but only 10 per cent of them had any training in the issues involved.*

Speed dating for community groups

L-R: Susan Power, Waterford City Childcare Committee; Eilishe O’Keeffe, Brothers of Charity; John McDonald, Waterford Disability Network; Fiona Lewis, South East Simon; Paul Murphy, Waterford Warmer Homes.

Might a replacement have been found for C&V sector “open days” held at local level where every organisation has a stall in a hall? 

Kerryman’s ‘Penrelief’ idea

Ger Collins, founder of

A new ‘get-it-off-your-chest’ website set up in March has got people from Ireland and around the world writing about their mental health challenges, REPORTS ALLEN MEAGHER.
It’s attracted the attention of two major suicide prevention agencies which are in discussions with the founder, while a cancer support group are going to take the idea and adapt it for their own use.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Kerry village wins unique prize

Mary McEvoy with Dan O’ Connor, development manager with Kerry Mental Health Association, in Ballyduff on March 14th. Photo by Oskars Krastins.

A village in North Kerry has won an unique prize, courtesy of North East Kerry Development working with an inter-agency committee.
Ballyduff won a programme to become a ‘Community of Excellence’ in promoting mental health awareness and well-being. It involves bringing as much training, talks and fun events to the village as possible, all tailored to the village’s needs and requests.

Friday, June 7, 2013

5 steps to holding your own hip-hop festival By Karen O’Donnell-O’Connor

Karen O’Donnell O’Connor is the Community Development Officer with PAUL Partnership and is a member of the organising committee of ‘Make A Move’ in Limerick. 

“Hip-hop is risky territory, but so worth it” - Catherine O’Halloran, youth worker

“Wake up! We need to open ourselves up and embrace what is around us" - Catherine O'Halloran, youth worker, Limerick.

Community organisations with a reputation to uphold with the general public, never mind their funders, enter “risky territory” when they agree to fund hip-hop activities.
Many people misunderstand hip-hop to be nothing more than a woman-hating, gangster-led movement dominated by hoodies.
The rewards however can be incredible, according to Catherine O’Halloran, one of the organisers behind one such festival that benefitted from an open-minded approach by its local development company.

Why are so many turning to hip-hop?

- It can be used as a community and personal development tool

Robert McNamara reports
Hip-hop is a cultural phenomenon we all know about.
Whether we like it or not - or even understand it - it’s everywhere.
It’s on TV, the radio, the internet, in clothes shops and on the streets.
Kids love it, they engage with it; more importantly, they identify with it.
It’s a subculture that originated in the seventies on the other side of the Atlantic, in the clamour of the Bronx, a concrete jungle dominated by high-rise buildings and apartment blocks, far different to the rural/urban overlap of most Irish towns.

VOLUNTEER PROFILE - John Lyons, handyman and social entrepreneur

“I never imagined the volunteering would lead to paid work.”

John Lyons from Limerick worked in construction for 20 years, felt the brunt of the decline, began volunteering and, lo and behold, 18 months later he’s looking at being paid once more for construction related work.
Along the way, he and colleague Ursula Mullane have become social entrepreneurs, though he doesn’t accord himself any fancy titles.
“I’m just the handyman,” he says, modestly. “I saw an advert in the paper looking for volunteers to help the elderly and I said, ‘Yeah, by all means’.”

Payoff beckons for eagle-eyed volunteers

Two volunteers have set up a new company in the Mid-West after spotting a niche area of the construction sector that the multi-nationals are ill-equipped to compete in.
The two directors of Community Repair and Maintenance (CRM) could be in clover by year’s end, REPORTS ALLEN MEAGHER.

Alignment - For and Against

IN FAVOUR:This document represents a fundamental re-imagining of the system and it sees local government leading economic, social and community developmentUnlike many previous reform documents, this Programme sets out firm decisions by Government rather than proposals for discussion.”
- Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan.

OPPOSED: “While we recognise the need for stronger and more accountable local government, we caution against any attempt to subsume community-led local development bodies into local authorities.”
- 21 academics writing in the Irish Times.

On the web relating to Alignment


The following are links to 30 or so online news reports, academic articles and Government papers. Along with our own sources and a review or Oireachtas debates, they helped inform 'Changing Ireland's reportage on local government reform and the debate around 'alignment':

Further perspectives on ‘Alignment’


Excerpts from reports by Dr Brendan O’Keeffe, Niall Crowley, Debra Mountford, Seán O’Riordan 

“The introduction, through a new committee (Socio-Economic Committee), of a Local and Community Plan will give added focus to mainstreaming local, community and rural development issues into local government services.
“More interestingly is that this local effort will be underpinned by a national policy framework which will be overseen by an inter-departmental committee, providing, hopefully, a similar level of integration and policy alignment at the national level.
“Coming up with workable models to do so is going to be a major challenge, but given the pressures on communities across the State, no one will be thanked if local, rural and community development are disrupted, no matter the benefits of underpinning local democracy.

Alignment in more detail: The role and functions of Socio-Economic Committees

Representation on the Socio-Economic Committees (SEC) and their terms of reference are currently the subject of discussion. Currently, this is what is envisaged.

Minister Hogan on ‘Putting People First’

Late last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Phil Hogan launched ‘Putting People First’ describing it as “one of the most radical, ambitious and far-reaching governance reform plans ever put forward by an Irish Government.”

Alignment of Local Government and Local Development

- Government policy outlined

The Programme for Government committed to reviewing the delivery of services at local level in order to improve service delivery from the point of view of the citizen. It has committed to reducing the duplication of services while ensuring greater democratic accountability in decision-making at a local level.
One initiative through which this will be achieved is the alignment of local government and local development sectors in a way that builds on the strengths of both sectors.
A high level Alignment Steering Group was established in September 2011 by Minister Phil Hogan to make recommendations on improving alignment between the sectors.
The Group’s final report (including the text of an interim report) was approved for implementation by Government last October.
Alignment forms part of the broader Local Government reform proposals as laid out in ‘Putting People First  – An Action Programme for Effective Local Government’.
The alignment of local government and local development will be pursued on a phased basis over the period 2012-2014, in a way that will secure optimum value from available resources and enhance service delivery for local communities.
The alignment report recognised “the key strengths of local development companies, including their reach into their communities, their proven track record of leading social inclusion and local and community development initiatives, and their significant local knowledge and expertise in service planning and delivery.”
It noted: “The approach and ethos of the local development companies, based on community involvement, and interventions tailored to address particular local needs, are fundamental elements of the local development model in Ireland.  Considerable care should be taken to maintain the integrity of this model.”
Further information including the full reports are available on the Department’s website:

NEWS FEATURE: Community reps negotiate with officials

- Talks continue over small but significant detail of reform plans

Allen Meagher reports:

Talks are continuing between Government officials and representatives from the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) the representative body for the country’s Local Development Companies (LDCs).

The other ‘Big A’ debate - Putting people on horseback first


By Allen Meagher, editor 'Changing Ireland'

The public generally understands two things about local authorities. On the one hand, the elected representatives deserve more power - too much rests with officials. The second commonly held view is that local authorities are sometimes responsible for the problems they’re trying to solve.
They struggle to connect with ‘hard-to-reach’ citizens.
Recently, in Moyross, we had 30 balaclava-clad young people riding around on horseback firing stones at public buildings after dozens of horses were taken by the pound on orders from the local authority. More restrained horse-owners protested outside council offices. Neither the crude and dangerous protest nor the dignified one sought jobs or training, just social inclusion and an end to persecution. However, all four could be delivered together if those holding the reins of power put their thinking caps on.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Digital Changing Ireland: now with greater interactive features

You can now enjoy the digital edition of Changing Ireland with greater interaction and ease of access.

 We have upgraded our account to include every issue of Changing Ireland and readers can now preview each edition's content before clicking to read. Readers can now also share and read individual stories by clicking 'articles' underneath each edition.

Website links in our articles have also been updated and can be accessed with one click. Plus, we have tagged each edition with relevant words related to the stories contained within. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Issue 41 of Changing Ireland available online now

Just click on the magazine cover to read 

It's now easier to get Changing Ireland then ever before. Here is a quick 'how to' guide on accessing the magazine using various technology.

 1. On your computer - Just click the link below and you can scroll around and turn pages just as you would the print edition.

2. On your iPhone - Select your browser. Log onto and search 'changingireland'. This will give you access to our library where you can select issue 40. Alternatively go to and click the link on our homepage.

3. On your Android phone - Go to and select the link on our homepage.

Should you experience any problems, please give Robert a call at 061-458090. Print copies will be with readers soon.