On the way home from teaching maths as a community volunteer in Ballymun I snapped a picture of my neighbours in the Liberties who were taking their horse, Jimmy Savile, for a walk around the Meath Place flats. Horses, like the people of the Liberties community, have been in this part of the inner city since forever, and there can be no doubt that together they make up much of the unique character of the gorgeous and historic Liberties of Dublin. In tweeting the image I decided to include the three year old @libertiesdublin, an organisation I recently discovered who were promoting the Liberties, but their response caught me off guard. Apparently the Liberties are “Not a place to keep horses.”

In the time that I have lived in the Liberties I have witnessed Dublin City Council issue Antisocial Behaviour Orders to twelve and thirteen year old boys for the offense of keeping racing pigeons, I have fed kids whose parents have been placed in drugs rehab, and I have watched as they have kicked and screamed while social workers and members of an Garda Síochána have taken them into care. The Liberties initiative – or “libertiesdublin.ie” – says on its website that “Over 23,000 residents live within the 1km square area” of the Liberties, but ignores the harsh realities of child poverty, food poverty, drug addiction, and suicide among other things, and it does this because it is a business initiative. Its concern is the promotion of the regenerated Liberties. Why should the poverty, the crime, or the drugs come into it? Why then the sneering condemnation of the inner city horses?

We know that there have been a number of care issues around the keeping of horses in the area, but the majority of the horses – like Jimmy Savile – are loved and very well cared for by the young people who own them. They were part of the Liberties long before the people behind libertiesdublin.ie decided to gentrify these streets and pontificate, in the name of the whole community, over social media. Moreover, in an urban environment where drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, petty and violent crime – all resulting from social isolation and poverty – are so rife, the horses and the pigeons have been an escape and an avenue to redemption. Looking over @libertiesdublin’s most recent tweets I see that they are more interested in canapés and €55 bottles of whiskey than they are in the 23,000 inhabitants of the Liberties, and I am wondering just where they get off condemning the kids with their beautiful horses. It’s time to unfollow I think.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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