Once buzzing with activities for the Meeting Place Club, amidst a sensory garden and landscaped space, the grounds at Fairlong allotments are now covered in bags of rubbish, and overrun with weeds and rats.
And leaders of the club lay the blame firmly at the hands of Dublin County Council for failing to step in and sort out management and lease issues.
Affiliated with The Arch Federation of Ireland, the Meeting Place Club caters for teenagers and children from six years upwards with various disabilities. Sandra Dillon, mother of three, was one of many parents in Finglas who decided to form the group and dedicate their time as one of her boys had special needs.
“Parents like me had no choice but to form a club and provide stimulating activities and play for our children. On a Friday evening, we have a social skills evening with members, with juniors from half four and seniors from a quarter to six. It’s horticultural on Mondays, and on Wednesdays, we do music appreciation and teaching for juniors and then seniors with guitar and drums.
“The members love it, learning through the computer how to press chords, flex fingers etc. My son, Jonthy Dillon teaches the different groups along with James Moran and Jack Stewart, the latter are now leaders, and were former members.” Indeed, Jonthy secured a Hidden Hearing award for his contribution only last week, and previously the club has won the Bloom Homeschool Award, Agrifoods Edible Foods, The Lord Mayors Award, Neighbourhood Award and more.
In 2012, The Meeting Place Club was given two allotments by Dublin City Council, at the Fairlong on ProspectiHi Hill off the Finglas Road.
“There we developed two sites, a herb garden and nature sensory plants,” said Sandra. “We ploughed a lot of money and love into that site without any financial support from DCC. We had an outdoor dance area, lovely gardens and a stimulating space for our children.”
Up to 2012, the Fingal Centre used to run it for DCC. “The Meeting Place Club and other clubs asked DCC if we could run it and manage it ourselves,” said Sandra. “We have been pleading for a safe space to cater for our children for 16 years, we just wanted a clubhouse or permanent space for their needs. We persevered and in 2014, a joint committee combining our cub and others and we took over managing the two sites.”
Sandra praised the generosity of City Bank and Yahoo who sponsored the sensory garden “as DCC never came through with funding, nothing.”
In recent years, the group installed a shed with grant funding approved by DCC and a disability toilet, thanks to Dublin Northside Care Group. “But in 2020, only then we discovered we were never officially on the lease!”
The Meeting Place Group is critical of management decisions made thereafter without any regulation or interference from DCC.
“Two years ago, when our sponsors offered to support us and put in a pergola and disability toilets, we discovered DCC had never put us on the lease. We decided to enter into talks to secure the lease. We worked with a solicitor at great expense to our families but were told in April this year that the lease would not be forthcoming. We were gobsmacked.”
Only then did The Meeting Place group stop maintaining the area, and in six months, the area has become an illegal dumping ground, a filthy rat invested site. Although the parents and leaders still run some activities at the shed which they maintain, parents are complaining it’s a health hazard and don’t feel safe using the disability toilet.
Sandra who lives in Glas Downs, Glasnevin feels that despite members coming from Ballymun, Artane, Cabra and beyond Finglas to use what was seen as such a positive outlet for children with disability, they have been abandoned by DCC.
|Diarmuid ‘Duggie’ Mac Dubhghlais, a community activist and leader with the club, states he feels this is discrimination by DCC. “Sixteen years we have been looking for a space, a facility for youth with disabilities.|
” I feel DCC don’t think these children are worth investing in, they have written them off. There’s one young lad who has taken a shine to the gardening. Why can’t the council invest in his future?
“We are very grateful to the Scout Den who provide a space for us, we’d be lost without them! “But our children deserve a permanent space of their own, and it is a disgrace that when we couldn’t secure a lease for the allotment, the site has simply been allowed to grow wild and is overgrown with weeds and waste.”
Dublin City Council were unable to respond at this time.