Impressions of poverty – A Dublin Story

If you’ve ever listened to the song Running to Stand Still from U2’s Joshua Tree album you will have heard about the Dublin neighbourhood of Ballymun in the lyric, “I see seven towers but I only see one way out.” Located on the northern periphery of Dublin city, Ballymun was at one time Ireland’s largest and – at least as much as my own experience has led me to hold – most unattractive experiments to cure poverty and inequality with public housing. Hastily conceived through a confluence of public and political pressure in response to a housing crisis in Dublin in the early 1960’s, the Ballymun Housing Project was missioned with providing relief from the wholly unsatisfactory conditions of the collapsing inner city slums for the region’s poorest and most desperate. Upon the project’s completion in 1966, the Ballymun estate featured seven fifteen-story tower blocks, nineteen eight story deck access “clusters”, ten four-story “walk-up” blocks and 400 two-story houses. Publicized as a “model new town”, the new dwellings featured a larger-than-the-national-average living space, running hot water, flushing toilets and central heating: these convenience were not at all a common feature in Irish housing at that time. The estates appeared as towering havens of gleaming concrete and prospective tenants were excited at the idea of their new homes. At least, that is the way the official record of history has chosen to remember how things went down. The truth of the situation and what lay underneath the politics and spin, eg. the anxieties and reservations felt by those being moved toward this entirely new neighborhood – not to mention the multitude of emotions they must have felt as to the fact that they were being quite physically separated from their previous locale – may never be known.

As has so often proven to be the case with large scale government sponsored housing programs, the story of Ballymun is one of blind optimism swiftly followed by catastrophic failure (take, for example, the case of the Pruitt Igoe housing complex in St. Louis, a story admirably presented in Chad Freidrichs’ 2012 documentary, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth). While the Irish press and Dublin Corporation were enthusiastic to highlight the architectural achievements of the Ballymun project, the vital social as well as recreational resources required by such a community had been carelessly overlooked. As much as a decade after the project’s ostensible completion, the promised health services, shopping facilities, office accommodation, community centre, meeting hall and swimming pool remained incomplete. In 1974, Ballymun had only the swimming pool, snack bar and two pubs – even today, with a population exceeding 22,000 people, just two police cars are stationed at Ballymun. Here you had a fragmented and disorganised population, annexed miles from their home city and significantly lacking the basic amenities necessary for the conducting of their daily lives. These were already vulnerable people, remember, with many lacking the skills to make any sort of functional lives for themselves in this foreign, barren and entirely new township.

When the global economic recession of the late 1970’s and 1980’s hit Ireland, Ballymun went into social and economic free-fall. With increased unemployment and reduced government spending came the familiar problems of poverty, drugs, crime, exclusion and alienation. By the early 1990’s, the area had a reputation as being one of the most distressed and crime ridden neighborhoods in the entire Republic. What had at one time been heralded as the solution to Ireland’s housing problem was now essentially an economically, socially and physically exhausted ghetto.

In Ballymun was found all the indicators and cliches of an underclass: joblessness, out-of-wedlock births, female-headed households, crime, violence, welfare dependency, substance abuse, and high rates of school dropout. Try to imagine what it must have been like to live in this kind of place. The thoughts going through your head as you made the journey home to your apartment complex after a day spent traipsing the streets of Dublin city centre, trying to find absolutely any kind of work, unsuccessfully. The elevator is broken so you have to take the stairs to your 9th story flat, which is work enough in and of itself, but as if things couldn’t get worse, on the stairwell you have to dodge both the yet-to-be-cleaned-up dog shit that has been on that step for 2 weeks now and the heroin addicts who see no problem in shooting up right there in the communal hallway. The place stinks of trash, urine and vomit and the council won’t be sending anybody to clean it up any time soon. You live in constant fear of being robbed or attacked or worse. Every day is like this, there are no prospects, no support, no relief, no future. Try to imagine this is you and what this would do to your sense of reality. Imagine trying to raise a family in this kind of environment. This was the everyday reality of life in a place like Ballymun. Oscar Wilde is quite wrong in his essay, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, when he writes that “misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, and exercise such a paralyzing effect over the nature of men, that no class is ever really conscious of its own suffering.” The poor and dejected in Ballymun knew exactly what was happening to them. These were not a people ignorant of their suffering. Ballymun was more than aware of its place in the pecking order; at the very bottom of the scrap heap; shit out of luck. What we’re talking about here is hopelessness as a way of life. Despite several refurbishment initiatives being attempted by interest groups, statutory agencies and the hard work of many community task forces, the region deteriorated to the point whereby it was difficult to conceive of anybody actually being able to conduct any sort of tolerable existence in such a place.

By the early 2000’s, as a result of Ireland’s new found economic prosperity (referred to internationally as the Celtic Tiger), the decision was finally made to pull down the 7 towers and to reinvent the area. A fresh start, so to speak. Ballymun was the target of a €1.8 billion regeneration scheme intended to create a self-sustaining community of 30,000 people. The idea being that this new strategy would be more successful than that of the 1960’s. They would get it right this time. In the summer of 2007, with the regeneration scheme at its peak, I came to rent a room in the centre of Ballymun.

As I saw it, the amendments to the area, including the construction of higher quality housing and investment in local business were entirely cosmetic. The truth is that, in Ballymun, I was exposed to such a degree of urban decay and decrepitude that it still astonishes me that a country would allow such undiluted misery to exist for so long. The scale of the degradation I encountered is incomparable with anything else I have so far experienced. There is nothing to be gained from kicking and demonizing the vulnerable, nor will romanticizing or patronizing their situation get us anywhere, I aim only to tell what I saw.

First of all my still vivid memories is the level of physical deprivation, especially around the old flat complexes: abandoned tenements, vandalized blocks, litter, graffiti, torched cars, drug paraphernalia, nettles growing high between paving stones, animal excrement, uncollected rubbish everywhere, broken furniture, kitchen appliances dumped in the middle of the street etc.The danger of broken glass kept young children away from the local playgrounds, instead teenagers hung menacingly from the frames of long-ago broken swings, harassing passers-by for cigarettes, money or both. It may be true that these teens came from perfectly respectable homes and were simply bored due to a lack of adequate entertainment, but with such dilapidated surroundings, their appearance could not but take on an air of the sinister.

Almost without exception, the uniform of the Ballymun casual – at least as of 2007/2008 – is the cotton tracksuit, accessorized with a pair of name-brand training shoes for males and puddle-stained ugg boots for females. Never jeans, and most certainly never a suit. The locals, regardless of age, had the most terrible skin. A condition I attribute – though I have absolutely no description of professional qualification to make any sort of formal diagnosis – to their grease-saturated, fast-food diet. Nearly everybody smokes; eyes closed and cheeks sucked tight against acme-pocked jowl, pulling on a cigarette as if for dear life. I never saw so much as a single person reading a book on the bus heading in or out of the neighborhood. Answering the door to an unexpected visitor was a definite no-no, you heard too many horrific stories to even consider such a thing.

Ballymun is the sort of place that strangely seems to suit the rain. Not that such weather makes the place look any better, but the grime of a raw sky and the wasteland of grey-sodden concrete just somehow seem to compliment one another. In the morning, conspicuously young mothers could be heard yanking their hysterical children in the direction of the local preschool, usually pushing another equally hysterical child in a rickety pram. Fathers were rarely ever to be seen on the streets with their children. Older children loitered in the doorways of the many abandoned blocks,smashing the windows of vacated flats, kicking the corpulent metal shutters that sign-posted a building’s condemnation – its eardrum perforating clang reverberating through the neighborhood with each kick like a corrugated banshee’s scream – and generally being a nuisance to anybody who happened to walk within shouting distance. One such 16 year old lad – no more than a kid really – died of a stab wound 100 metres from my back yard during my second month in the area.

It is said that in a city, you’re never more than two feet away from a rat, in Ballymun, the same can be said of junkies. While you might occasionally spot one or two during the day, the bulk came out at night. Their otherwise surreptitious movements detectable only by their shouting up to unspecified block windows. The calls, though difficult to decipher, pertained exclusively to ordering – often pleading – for scag, before the scurry back into the night, returning a few days later for a top up. A pilgrimage of both habit and necessity. Their days devoted entirely to the business of scrounging and robbing money for drugs in the city centre.

It should go without saying that there are honest and hard-working people in Ballymun and that this group is vastly underrepresented in most news coverage of the area. The simple and stark truth – quite plainly put – is that a story involving a man being dismembered in a pub brawl will always be a lot more headline grabbing and eye catching than one covering the construction of a community art wall. My live-in landlady, Lucy, was a Ballymun native and a figure of both dignity and conviction. She kept an immaculate house and, while well aware of the Ballymun’s various shortcomings, would staunchly defend the area against anyone who spoke ill of the place. I would go as far to say that she was in possession of a greater sense of honesty, humility and strength of character than I have encountered among the middle-class bohemians and pseudo-intellectuals in whose company I have found myself.

Lucy was, however, very much a product of her environment. Here was a person totally desensitized to a great many of things from which your average law-abiding, god-fearing, tax-paying citizen would be eager to shy from. It was, as one might imagine, worth taking note when she quite candidly informed me that one of her former boyfriends had been arrested during a police sting operation on account of his involvement in the attempted armed robbery of an armored car. Though never a user herself, I would frequently return home of a Saturday night to find Lucy sat next to a different guy each week- her partner for the night – who would be chopping mounds of coke (other controlled substances are available) into neatly arranged lines on the living-room coffee table. The gentleman was usually a different but the gear was always the same. One side effect of cocaine use – as any anti-narcotics campaigner will tell you – is impotence. To account for such a possibility, 2 emergency Viagra tablets were always to be found in the top drawer of her bedside locker; one for the line chopper, one for herself.

Two memories, the first an example of the indiscriminate violence that can erupt in Ballymun at any moment, the second, I think, giving a certain insight into the arbitrary nature of crime in the neighborhood.

I remember quite distinctly, walking home from the bus stop one otherwise forgettable day, listening to the radio through the headphones of my cheap-ass mobile phone, only to be unexpectedly jerked from concentration by the terrible crack of cement meeting concrete at my feet. To my immediate left, an eviscerated Coke bottle (other colas are available) spilling fragments of hard cement – its filling – across the pavement. To my right, on the roof of an 8 story tenement block, a troupe of teenagers hurling every imaginable expletive in my direction. On realizing the heft and density of the bottle’s former contents, the initial surprise of the impact turned swiftly to one of confused panic. Few things are more terrifying to me than the idea of indiscriminate violence; of being the unwitting and randomly designated victim of another’s whimsical inhumanity. What if that solid bottle had made contact with my skull? From that height, forget about it. Even if the bottle had been filled with water, from 8 stories, it would still mean lights out. It is probable that their intention had been simply to spook me for their own adolescent gratification. A shot across the bough for shits and giggles. To think that this thing was actually aimed at my head is a little too much to consider. Either way, it was a calculated act of violence. I think it’s got something to do with the ability to snatch a person’s control in a situation. To prompt fear at will. These are the same sort of people that prank call fire and ambulances services only to pelt the responding units with rocks and glass bottles when they arrive. They are cruel activities, perpetrated by cruel people. It is a hostility caused by the misery and rage and depression of desperate circumstances. It is absurd but understandable. The behavior of people without a sense that a better life is in any way attainable. The way out of poverty, of course, is not through violence but education. This, however, wasn’t the occasion for proselytizing.

I got mugged in the broad daylight of a Saturday afternoon. I was making my way to an off-license to pick up a few beers for the weekend. Apart from a cheap phone, I had a wallet containing 7 Euros in the loosest change (the cost of a six pack) and a backpack holding my winter hat and a few miscellaneous papers. A kilometer long stretch of road, one side lined with disused flats the other with the high perimeter wall of a newly built housing estate separated my house from the store. I minded my own business, walking alone through the cold air of this queasy November afternoon. It was a good day to have stayed home. Helplessly outflanked, it is only with hindsight I can appreciate how easy and tempting a target I must have appeared. I remember, even from the sound of their footsteps as they approached from behind, that I was about to find myself in trouble and I was knocked stupid by how suddenly it all happened.

The business of mugging, as I have come to see it, is not necessarily undertaken for any material gain to the aggressor but is more immediately concerned with the seizure of power. When you are on the receiving end of the knife, you are certainly not the one in any sort of control. No-one comes away from this sort of situation any the more romantic or interesting. I did my best to cooperate with the individuals conducting the exchange, the knives they held at me would make swift work of my gut and I was in no mood to have my gut swiftly made work of. What surprised most was how utterly charmless this episode played out. While one of the bastards held his knife at my neck, the other rifled through my pockets. Money quickly changed hands and then they were gone.

There is a saying that only a coward steals from the poor. What is to be said, then, when the poor are robbing from the poor? I had nothing to my name in those days. There is something very pathetic about the low tier street crime. It is, as far as I can see, a practice with few results other than its own unpleasantness. When I got home, I called the police – on my landlady’s phone – but no unit ever turned up. In the days that followed, it is embarrassing to admit, I was somewhat hesitant to leave the house. At one point, I even considered carrying my own knife but ultimately decided that this was more likely to cause more trouble than it could ever possibly remedy. When winter really got going, I made a decided effort to be home before the sun went down.

While living in Paris, the minimalist playwright and author Samuel Beckett was stabbed in the chest by a pimp named Robert-Jules Prudent. The knife narrowly missed his heart and left lung, confining Beckett to a Parisian hospital for over two weeks. When the writer met his attacker in court, he asked why had he done such a thing. Prudent responded, “Je ne sais pas, monsieur. Je m’excuse.” In an act of incredible sympathy, Beckett chose not to press charges, believing his assailant to be, “more cretinous than malicious.” I wish that I was capable of that kind of compassion. It is a brutal truth that violence is a part of the fabric of everyday life in Ballymun and despite my best efforts, I am unable to empathize with the mind that would derive pleasure from such a practice. Modern liberal thinking has ruled it unacceptable to think poorly any of the people of areas like Ballymun, preferring instead to patronizingly lament the desperate measures to which these people have been driven. I can tell you that in that particular moment, with that knife pointed at me, I hated them. I could not have cared less about the socioeconomic circumstances that drove them to this, I wanted them strangled. It is one thing to moralize on the plight of the disenfranchised, it is another to have its most unpleasant qualities bearing down on you. It may be true that crimes of this sort occur to all manner of people, in all different cities. On this occasion, however, it happened to me and here.

I moved out of Ballymun just as Ireland was sliding into a similar economic quagmire to that which it had spent most of the 1990’s crawling out from. I cannot help but wonder what effect the bubble bursting has had on that already derelict town. For decades, the people of Ballymun have been the underdogs and as long the neighborhood exists they will remain so. And why should anyone care about a place such as Ballymun? As Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “Some people get rich and others eat shit and die.” The condition of Ballymun reflects an unpleasantness in us all, something quite unsavory, existential even. It is not a case of them and us, only us and what we have allowed. The term underclass is a dirty word with ugly connotations, but I struggle to find a more descriptive term for many of the people I encountered in Ballymun. These were a people failed by local government, by the state, by official policy, by their Dublin neighbors and by each-other. The people of Ballymun know they are hated and well aware that a great number of people would soon enough forgot the place even exists, much as they would so many other of the country’s failures. But the buck stops here, it doesn’t get much rougher than this. That isn’t to say, of course, that it couldn’t always get worse, but for the sake of civility, let’s hope it doesn’t. At least from what I’ve seen, the poor may be virtuous but there is no virtue to poverty, and little charm to be found in squalor and misery.

210 Comments Add yours

  1. SHAUNA says:

    Thus far, the most though provoking take on today’s prompt –

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  3. aiseop says:

    Wow. Incredible.

  4. benzeknees says:

    This was a very lengthy read, but incredibly interesting. You have a lovely voice when you write. Thanks for following Benzeknees.

  5. M-R says:

    Are you an academic …?
    This is a singularly well-written piece, bringing home to readers the awful combination of government (at all levels) stupidity and thoughtlessness, rapidly followed by wilful ignorance. But of course that period was one wherein governments all over built horrible megalithic places like Ballymun … which proves only how many of them shared these qualities.
    I look forward to reading the rest of your blog.

  6. frncnseal585 says:

    You drew me into a world I wish did not exist and am thankful I don’t have to experience – so far. You write extremely well. May you never have to experience that ever again.
    And, thanks for following my blog, although I doubt you’ll ever find anything quite like your writing.

  7. My gosh, you hear about these types of places in the United States — inner-city ghettos where mostly minorities are forced to live — but the thought of them existing in Ireland or, really, any other country with a high GDP is very hard for me to wrap my head around. Your description of Ballymun is eerily similar to Alex Kotlowitz’s journalistic account of two African-American boys growing up in Henry Horner Homes, a project on the South Side of Chicago. Have you ever read it?

    1. I must confess I’ve never read it. I will certainly have to find it and give it some of my time.

    2. johnsenrc says:

      Yes, the USA and other countries have made this same grave error, if indeed it was an error, of jailing the poor in outlandish high rise ghettos. People become very much trapped in these dangerous building because of high crime rates and the disposal of people with mental illnesses going on to the category of severe.

      The hallways become traps and the top floors barely accessible by people of age or disability.

      A very well written piece my friend.

      1. oosorio456 says:

        Inequality is more than poverty is a real issue in the road to obtain a better education and life

  8. elizabethweaver says:

    Stunning piece: your astute observations, personal experience and reflections, and social commentary. Thank you for posting this. Thank you, too, for following my blog. Peace.

  9. Uncle Mort says:

    Two Points on this interesting item. I grew up in the Dolphins Barn area of Dublin and Dolphin House flats were built there in c1957. The first residents came from the James’s St , Thomas St and Coombe areas of the city and these were the poorest areas I have ever experienced. As the crow flies these flats are about the same distance from the old homes of the new arrivals as Ballymun is from Gardener St etc where the first residents of Ballymun cam from. The folks enjoyed their new homes and formed a close knit community in Dolphin House and it did not revert to the type of slum that Ballymun became almost overnight for almost 20 years! So how come Dolphin House was a success of sorts for 20 years while Ballymun failed? I feel that even if times were hard for those years there was still a work ethic in Dolphin House which did not exist in Ballymun.
    Second thing I might mention is that as an apprentice I was sent to assist a plumber at Ballymun at installing the first plastic piping to be used in Ireland. I was not a plumber, I was a steam fitter back then but the plumber requested that I help him. The contractors were Cubitt-Hayden-Sisk and we did NOT and never did work for them, the first six houses were built to exacting standards ,not achievable by that consortium, and the best tradesman in Ireland were drafted in. After the Government of the day inspected these houses and gave the go-ahead for the main scheme these first 6 houses were demolished. One of those who got the red carpet treatment at the inspection was Charles Haughey. Interesting links between Haughey, the Sisk family, The Lemass family and many others including my employer. Corruption at it’s best 🙂
    Thank you for following my blog, I will of course return the compliment 🙂

    1. That is an incredibly interesting comment, thank you. I have spent a significant amount of time researching and reading up on Ballymun since I lived there. I find the area to be fascinating. It just got so bad. Of course, I had many more unbelievable experiences in the neighborhood than outlined in this rather short piece and I hope to one day write them down.

      1. Uncle Mort says:

        I had to keep my comment short due to time constricts but if you need any help or information on Dublin during those years please just ask. Going off line now

  10. Hi! Thank you for following my blog. It was an interesting reading of hard writing facts. It seems I know how difficult is to forget this kind of reality. I spend some time “studying” the poverty in my country – Moldova. Your story is a little bit different – it’s more about lack of education which links directly to criminality and not about the poverty in classical meaning. The drug addicted is not a poor person, or the same can be said regarding the teens who threw empty bottles on you. It’s about “nothing else to do”. They have what to eat, they have enough money to drink, they have a roof, clothes, food… If you’d give them a million dollars, these people will do the same – they will never buy books, never go to the theater, never think to work and their “hobby” will remain the same – to threw stones, to find “crack” in any way… The poverty is linked more to the state of humility, shame while the social isolation in a close community links to aggressiveness and criminality. I am almost sure, that no many from Ballymun consider themselves poor. Of course I can be wrong…

  11. sandradan1 says:

    This is so thought-provoking, it’s brought me to a stop in my working day full of books and make-believe. Thanks for the post, and thanks for finding and following my blog. SD

  12. It sounds like living in Ballymum was a nightmare. When I was studying in Dublin I wrote an essay about the housing bubble boom and bust. My teacher mentioned Ballymum once or twice, but we didn’t go into much detail about the conditions there. All I can say is thank you for your eye-opening photo essay. I hope inequality in Ireland goes down and that the government tries to reverse the damage in this area and others. However, with the lack of social spending and Ireland’s priorities post-recession it won’t be easy. Thanks for following my blog, can’t wait to read more from yours!

  13. meridabill says:

    Felicidades desde Mexico on a well-written, thoughtful and significant piece of writing. I knew of Ballymun from some crime novels I’ve read but you put it into a reality context for me. BTW most of my family comes from Donegal altough my surname is Dutch. Welcome to the other side of the ocean and the way we live here. It’s interesting that the poverty here is as bad or worse than yours yet in this part of Mexico crimes and thuggery are not. Part of the reason I left the USA. Keep writing.

  14. Like a post apocalypse Mel Gibson movie. As a setting makes for all kinds of sci-fi possibilities. Reminds movie Escape from New York.

  15. Lisa Womble says:

    Great read, though sad. I grew up in North St. Louis and lived near Pruitt-Igoe. Just mentioning the name of that project brought shutters of fear. I’ll never forget watching the implosion on television and being glad it was gone. I was in grade school at the time. My family (including extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins) was eventually part of the “white flight” that left the city for the suburbs, but I still write often about how they’ve maintained their “inner-city mentality” for generations now. There is a hopelessness that takes hold and is hard to overcome. And that hopelessness creates a hardness which expresses itself in violence. Absolutely not condoning it, just recognizing it for what it is … and as you show, it sucks for everyone involved.

  16. lolaelvy says:

    This is very interesting read. It is written quite well, I find, and is very descriptive. I find it interesting your impressions of that part of the culture. I also find it refreshing how you reflect upon yourself. Some writers don’t do that very much.
    A very compelling read. I hope to look at more of your stuff.
    –Lola Elvy

    1. oosorio456 says:

      It’s not amazing how we can Unite our voices to denounce this horrible inequality

  17. Victor Ho says:

    This post showed up on my email when you found my blog. I’d have gone to the most recent post to read but the story of your mugging was riveting and sad. In NY I was in a courtroom where they questioned 20 potential jurists. 19 had been the victim of a crime. The 20th was too young to have been robbed or anything else yet.

  18. i remember Ballymun, all so long ago now but i remember.
    Thank you for this, thank you

  19. Tish Farrell says:

    When I lived in Africa in the ’90s the rich world was pontificating to/withholding aid from their erstwhile poverty stricken colonies, and telling them that they should adopt all the good things western – i.e. transparency, free market trading, multi-party democracy. One has to ask – where did it get us? How did we all get to be so hoodwinked/rendered insensible by the great capitalist ‘free’ market model? Great essay, and thanks for the follow.

  20. Reblogged this on Empires, Cannibals, and Magic Fish Bones and commented:
    After my post on Detroit, I read this blog on public housing on the outskirts of Dublin. Much to gain by reading and comparing.

  21. cat9984 says:

    Beautiful writing about a very ugly subject.

  22. Firstly thanks for following my blog. Actually I’m quite glad you did because it has given me the opportunity to read your work. My time working in prisons and the police brought me into contact with many people from similar living conditions as Ballymun. Public housing, whether it goes straight up or is spread through a suburb doesn’t seem to change much at all. Generational unemployment, crime, drug use, depravity, hopelessness all seem to find a common ground. I often wonder would the people from these areas fare better in homes dotted amongst ordinary suburbs, or is the problem ‘built in?’ Is despair a genetic disposition or is it easier to say stuff it and do nothing about climbing out from the morass?
    Nice meeting you,

  23. Though I´ve never lived on one, I’ve seen far too many estates like the Ballymun Estate. Two of my sisters had a flat in the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, where the death of Cynthia Jarrett during a police search led to hacking to death of PC Keith Blakelock in a riot. I often used to visist and stay at my sisters’ flat.

    Though it wasn’t half as bad as Ballymun sounds, I never felt safe, simply because it wasn’t safe. It had the same sorts of problems, Shop units were built, but no businesses took them up.

    I also had friends in living in the council flats around Golborne Road in North Kensington in London, which was not a safe place to wander either.

    Now I live in social housing in the south of Spain. Amazingly, the area is mixed with privately-owned flats and houses very desirable. We have a three star hotel across the road from our flat, and new shops are opening all the time in spite of the crisis. But that is the secret, mixing social housing with privately-owned housing to avoid the ghetto mentality taking hold.

    But I have to add it is not something to be found all over Spain. Many big cities made exactly the same mistake as Ireland and Britain.

  24. chrisrenney says:

    A necessary piece of writing although how I wish it wasn’t needed. Excellent critique of a doomed social experiment wherein those with little choice were mere playthings for those with money and power.

  25. TanGental says:

    Fascinating and depressing piece, sadly representative of cities the world over. Why do governments think infrastructure is a solution in itself? It is a classic mistake that provides capital to create a project and then starved it of the income needed to bring it to some sort of fruition. Thanks for the follow.

  26. spalanz says:

    That was a really evocative study, thanks so much for sharing! It’s things like this that are inevitably remembered with a journalistic remove rather than the more visceral first-person perspective. If Ballymun is being redeveloped, I’m sure this blog will become invaluable as the years march on, as a fantastic record of the time. Really great piece, thanks again!

  27. Evocative is the word to describe your interesting piece. My compliments.

  28. Oh God! This is so sad. I only just started blogging and I gotta take inspiration from you! Really well written. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  29. fairlycirrus says:

    Hi. Now I’ve read this piece of yours – all the way through, which you should take as a compliment, since it’s hard to keep my attention these days – I am stoked that you thought it worth following mine.
    Excellent writing. You create a real sense of desolate place.
    I grew up in Council flats in the London area (now Greater London) – in the 1950s and early 60s. They were far more salubrious places than the concrete desert you describe. I don’t know what the difference was. Maybe it was because times were, even for the working class in which I firmly belonged, good. I was born two years after WWII and we were the fortunate generation – never a better time or place to be born.
    I waiver between two extremes of judgement about the kind of vicious behaviour you witnessed and were victim of. The angry me – the me that cannot stand bullies – wants the evil bastards locked up and the key thrown away. The compassionate me knows that life can knock the breath out of you and some people never have a chance. And then there are those who somehow manage to drag themselves above all that despair and savagery. Sometimes all it takes is the right attention from a damned good teacher, a chance meeting with someone who introduces an idea – a possibility. But you have to be the kind of person who’s ready for that moment.
    I’ve recently come to the conclusion that what we think of as our ‘free will’ is an illusion. We do exactly what a combination of the sum total of our life experiences + the precise state of the universe and our place in it + our data-sorting subconscious mind (over which we have no control) dictates. Sometimes, though, it really doesn’t help to recognise that the evil bastard we’re angry with is doing the only thing he can.

  30. You have focused the ground reality.

  31. bkpyett says:

    What a moving experience you had living in such a scary situation. You have captured the desperation of Ballymun. It is so sad that places like this can’t be helped out of poverty. It sounds as if you have found a safer place to live. thank you so much for your follow, I shall be interested to see more of your writing too.

  32. Wonderful description of a terrible place.

  33. Brilliant description, especially of Ballymun, you have got it in one. You make it sound like your walking trough a post-atomic bombed out city!

  34. You’ve put flesh on the skeleton of my fears.

  35. shakwinn says:

    You are doing a great thing. Keep it up.

  36. Grandma Sue says:

    Very thought-provoking and well-written piece. Humanity is the same all around the world it seems. I am of the philosophy that life is what you make of it and one should not allow others to control your life/destiny. Perhaps that makes me a rebel of a sort. Here in the States they are pushing a policy called Agenda 21 which essentially wants to move the population to city centers. There are promises of an easy life with all the amenities in one place but as we know when bureaucrats are involved nothing is easy or cheap and it is the ones that are being “rescued” who will ultimately suffer the most. I read with interest a comment above of how a similar place did not deteriorate into the likes of Ballymun but that the work ethic is what has kept it civil and decent. That may be the key to this whole mess. Handouts and government programs do not free people but enslave people and destroy the possibility of a person reaching their full potential in this life.

  37. johnsenrc says:

    Reblogged this on Our Poor World and commented:
    A very global piece really. Well written.

  38. dmarshall58 says:

    Amazing, compelling writing. Reminded me also of Alex Kotlowitz and Chicago’s struggle with Cabrini Green, which the city ultimately pulled down. Its residents scattered. Few cared to help them find a better situation and thus many found worse. The city hid its callousness, though, which seemed to be the idea.

  39. This is an exceptionally powerful piece. Thanks for writing it!

  40. jef says:

    This is an edifying piece of real writing that really ought to get more exposure than your commendable blog will draw, I think. One thing that strikes me (and I am a left-leaning American) is that these damned of described of having ‘been failed’, their apparent curse a passive. Can they be said to have failed? I understand the notion of trying to find traction from the bottom of a black pit, but the language here (and in most such analyses) speaks to how these poor people have been let down. I’d suggest that the mysterious distinction between the comparative success of Dolphin House, as described above, and the apparently immediate bleakness and failure of Ballymun might’ve been to do with the differing zeitgeist of those respective communities. This isn’t magic. People draw hope from the proximal hopeful and hope is energy, physical and otherwise. Are you a practicing journalist? You should be publishing. And you needn’t follow my blog, I know you are trying to propagate word of your great writing salon through drawing the naturally vain (most bloggers) to your site. I’ll spread the word about your project. You are the real thing. Thanks for taking the time and care to write this all down. Also dug your ‘third date’ post. Genuinely moving and economical.

  41. d3b01946 says:

    Thank you so much for deciding to follow my blog. This piece of yours, plus all the comments long and short is little short of miraculous. I live in an area of London that used to be a den of thieves and is now highly desirable, but the bus journeys to work take me daily through and past Elephant and Castle – another social housing disaster, with all the ingredients that you mention in your blog. One of my fellow travellers used to live in the tenement “slums” that were torn down to create the concrete jungle. She admits that the housing was poor quality, but it was a community, disaggregated by the redevelopment. Now I see that the concrete jungle is being pulled down. I wonder what model of socio-architectural thinking will go up in its place.

  42. Ian says:

    Great writing and thought-provoking. Do governments, I wonder, give a thought to the lessons of history? Or do they just implement their political philosophies, regardless of the inevitable outcome? Left wingers spend wildly to ensure a return for their donors, who in turn keep donating to the party. And right wingers do the same thing for their supporters. And along the way, they benefit politically from being seen to do things and staging opening ceremonies etc. Money keeps going round and round and mistakes build on mistakes.

  43. awtytravels says:


    It doesn’t happen often for me to agree wholeheartedly with something I read but today I do. I cannot but appreciate your candor and honesty when you bared your feelings after having been mugged. This, I guess, is how normal people feel with evil comes in contact with their lives, and this is what our governments should be working to prevent from happening. Because it’s really hard to stop people from hating, once that you’ve given them a good reason to.

  44. Gert Loveday says:

    Great to find such intelligent and passionate commentary. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  45. burlhall says:

    Reblogged this on burlhall and commented:
    Powerful piece

  46. sporterhall says:

    Wow! Thank you for this sobering dose of realism…very poignant post! I am now following you also and can’t wait to read more of honest and very realistic content. Have a great day! 🙂

  47. Lori Carlson says:

    I am so glad I chose to read this writing on your blog. Well thought out and a fascinating read.

  48. Your writing is exceptional to say the very least.

  49. madamsabi says:

    Great reading and plenty attention to details. I think it should be seen by those in authority. And oh, thanks for following my blog.

  50. Aniallator22 says:

    I’ll be honest and I tell you that I skimmed through the second half of this – not because it wasn’t good enough (it was excellent) but because work got in the way. What I did read was very interesting. My family emigrated to South Africa from Dublin when I was just 8. This kind of thing is very prevalent here in Johannesburg – very sad. Is it wrong of me to take some joy from the fact that it isn’t always greener (excuse the pun) on the other side?

    Thanks for following my blog, by the way.

  51. beebeesworld says:

    We often fail to realize, that hunger, poverty, abuse and other wrongs are all around us. Nice editorial. beebeesworld I will follow your blog.

  52. What a brilliant piece of writing. And you’re right, the poor and the homeless and the sick know exactly what’s going on around them. Been there, living in fear probably makes you more aware pf what’s going on. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for stopping by.

  53. grieflessons says:

    Thanks for following my blog. One nice by-product of your reading my blog is that I read yours. Ironically, though, I had not yet posted my today’s post, which has some similarities to yours. I can’t tell if this post was written to the same prompt, but whatever your prompt, I can identify with your story. I’ll be back! Judy

  54. grieflessons says:

    Oops. I now see that your story was written in March, so can’t be the same prompt, but nonetheless, we have shared similar experiences…Judy

  55. Capt Jill says:

    excellent writing, you really made the place real, I had no idea these kinds of places existed in Ireland. It sounds very similar to what we have in our large cities in the states. Most of these large government projects are failures.
    I’m curious what you (and others) think is the reason for the failure there. You describe it as a very nice place to live when it first started. Better facilities than many other places around. So, what do you think made it fall into ruin?
    Personally, I think without HAVING to be responsible, people won’t take any responsibility for their lives. I agree that it’s hard to escape from rotten circumstances, but I also think you can do anything you want to if you want to bad enough.
    I also think there’s a LOT to be said for voluntary communities and it sounds like this place never grew one. Do you have any ideas of why? Why people never made a NEW community once they were all moved from the places they came from?
    I’m glad you got out of there before you had even more problems.

  56. Very well written. It is disheartening to see how humanity can be reduced to such raw, careless and animalistic behavior. How can hope be restored, even a bit of it?

  57. I didn’t plan to read such a long post, but this was a very clear and impartial account of life for this particular social enclave and a just reminder of all that we ignore at our peril and to the distress of those who have to live in it.

  58. A good post. Those of us in a fortunate position often find it easy to forget those in less fortunate circumstances. It is well to remember that an accident of birth, lack of education, lack of opportunity and unfortunate circumstance are all that seperates us and them.

  59. susieshy45 says:

    Wow. That was a powerful post. The people of Ballymun have a strong advocate in you. I think this article is good enough for reading by students of social studies. It is not the opinion of a third party but a first hand account of a resident of Ballymun. It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword. The Arab Spring was brought about by writings of common people. Who knows the world may change ( for the better), for the Ballymunites.

  60. Bravo for having the courage to use the word “underclass.” The likely ultimate cause of the existence of communities such as Ballymun is that wealth is now concentrated in the hands of a small number of people who live opulent lives and therefore have no exposure to the misery of the poor. They think everyone’s life must be opulent because their own are. This is exacerbated by the increasing stratification of neighborhoods that turns the very places people live into echo chambers, right down to there being economically and demographically identical Democrat and Republican neighborhoods in the American District of Columbia, separated only by political party allegiance. We are increasingly atomized and self-congratulatory, and the people who are in a position to remedy social problems have steadily decreasing awareness of their existence. Your thoughtful and eloquent but restrained blog post can serve as a corrective to such lack of awareness, provided that the right people read it.

  61. leamuse says:

    Jonathan Swift had much to say about it in his famous piece, A Modest Proposal! A good post. Léa

    1. Yes, that’s a smashing piece of satire.

      1. leamuse says:

        At the very least, in my top five!

      2. One interesting take on it (although full of deliberate malapropisms and misspellings for humorous effect) is Charlie Farquharson’s 1987 book, _Cum B(u)y My Farm_, in which the fictitious Farquharson is a Canadian farmer of Irish ancestry and describes some of the crap his “Iratish incesters” went through. I just finished reading it and enjoyed it.

  62. C.M. Rivers says:

    moving, powerful, informed writing! thank you for following my blog

  63. Grant Coulson says:

    “blind optimism swiftly followed by catastrophic failure”–well-turned phrase true of almost every government enterprise.
    Cheers, Grant Coulson

  64. shanechall says:

    Brilliant stuff. You could easily make a longer nonfiction work with this. It’s one of the few truly honest depictions of poverty I’ve read in recent memory.

  65. A thought-provoking post. You need to read Doris Lessing’s sci-fi ‘Memoirs of a Survivor’, which she wrote in the 1970’s. Scary how all that she wrote about society and behaviour is being fulfilled now…

  66. zooeyibz says:

    I love your writing. Incisive, honest, sharply observed critical commentary laced with Joyce, Thompson, Beckett and even U2. If you’re into critical observation of politics and popular culture you might like my blog too.

  67. trotter387 says:

    Over the years growing up in, living and working in areas of extreme deprivation have shown the there is a common social issue for these estates and communities – irrelevancy.

    All too often these communities are marginalised because they can be and anything done to support activities that create cohesion appears to be ‘done to’. This creates atrophy and inertia leading to falling living standards and community squalor.

    I enjoyed the post however I would suggest that relative poverty when measured against abject poverty often indicates that the empowerment process can make a difference to lifestyles very quickly, Birmingham and parts of London demonstrate that.

  68. flowerpoet says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this info and your personal story. I have tasted poverty too but it was nothing like this. I do know that whether we live in a shack, a ghetto, a mansion, or a castle, we can be joyful, loving, caring, and peaceful- or all that is opposite. My heart goes out to all who live in that Irish ghetto. We do not know each soul’s spiritual agenda in the experience of challenges and opportunities of such trying circumstances. Everyone justifies their own actions and choices through their accepted ‘world view’. This is a key for change. So many lose themselves in the ‘victimhood’ of ghettos where fearful thoughts and feelings rapidly manifest into hellish lives and invasive energies that spread like plagues to all around. Fear is ever the tool and dark force of those who profit financially from such environments and conflicts all over this planet. Those who are addicted to painful emotions can likewise become negative energy vampires feeding off the daily flow of violence, intimidation, hopelessness, and despair. It is a spiritual illness of which mental illness is clearly a part. There’s no sexy glamour in that kind of created reality despite fictional lies, deceptions, modern myths and fashion statements. We are all powerful creators and co-creators of our lives. Love of self and others has lifted many out of oppressive conditions and transformed people and their environments into more highly evolved states of well-being. It can be done.

  69. Great narrative! I imagined my body and mind what you wrote, due to physical and emotional descriptions. I love your perspective as it reflects much of my own. I usually don’t read blogs this long, but it was pure joy reading yours. I’ll definitely check back. Thank you for sharing the historicity Ballymun and your own experiences and insights while living there.

  70. August says:

    Thank you for sharing this information with the world. I feel that it’s only through spreading this knowledge that we can come to an understanding of the greed and stupidity that breeds places like Ballymun – places with the “best of intentions” but that inevitably end up as ghettos that aren’t fit places to live.
    The work you’re doing is important to the world, important to mankind and important to me so, thank you.

  71. Like others, I don’t usually read posts this long, but this one kept my attention so well, I didn’t even once scroll down to see how much was left. Thank you for this experience. Some of the images will stay with me for a long time. I am curious about how you got out of Ballymun, and will look for that in your blog, but more so glad you did and lived tell about it.

  72. Thank you for this beautifully written post. The example of Ballymun is not unique. I remember the same housing projects being built in France to help the poor and middle class only to become ghettos where the police never goes. There is a fundamental misconception that because it’s managed and cared for by the state, or the city, it’s going to be safe and better for everyone. It’s not. Especially when the projects are not monitored and cleaned, and guarded, all hell breaks loose! The people who can go go, and leave the less fortunate behind only to rot with junkies, drug lords, gang bangers, rapists, robbers, and so on… Yes, the hallways will be filthy, the elevator won’t work and someone will probably fall or be pushed down the shaft because the doors are not sealed, and no one cares. Really, no one cares. How many times have I seen news reports and read articles about yet another death in the projects, another overdose, another rape? Countless. The truth about poverty is that it hurts too bad, and it cannot be cured because to be rich, you need poor, and society ignores and will keep ignoring.

    One more blatant example? Well Africa is a whole continent subject to the biggest atrocities for centuries to come, and what is being done about it? Not much. Most of the charity dollars go to corrupt officials anyway.

    I’ve lived near the projects in NYC, and never got mugged. I moved to suburbia and almost got mugged on my way home. The scumbags didn’t take anything because thank God, they didn’t threaten me with a knife, and I screamed loud enough to scare them away, but I wasn’t in a bad or poor neighborhood. These kids came from the bad side of town though.

    Poverty spills and can affect everyone. No matter where you live, the chances of you being in contact with poverty will happen at least once, and what will be your reaction? You will get angry, hate the whole world because you can’t understand why such plight still happens in the 21st century, and then you’re going to think that it’s not your responsibility to save everyone, that everyone cannot be saved anyway, and you’ll continue on your merry/or not so merry way, and live life hoping never to hit that bottom. Your scorn, compassion, pity, and concern will never save the people of Ballymun, even if this town gets erased from the map.

    Sad but true.

  73. Jack Curtis says:

    Three thoughts come from reading this evocative presentation:
    1. These sorts of projects and their many relatives around the world inevitably decline under the iron economics described as: “The Tragedy of the Commons.” They are massive illusions …
    2. Their appearance is an inevitable reaction to the fountain of public money they put into political and business hands; that is also why when they are later fixed, the process is a repetition of their origin, with cosmetic changes for sales purposes.
    3. Poverty of varying degree has been the normal state of humanity and I suppose, remains so. Larger numbers than usual have escaped it in the Judeo-Christian West for a while, but that is visibly fading as a response to those societies rejecting their founding principles that had once, united them and minimized corruption. They are reverting to the human historical median.
    Dublin and St. Louis public housing are cogent warnings for those willing to see …nor can I imagine a better presentation than this post!

  74. Fascinating story, thanks for sharing it. And thanks so much for your follow of Heart of Life Alchemy.

  75. Dismal. Depressing. Sad. Yet necessary to expose. I grew up in the sticks in Maine and was considered poor. Yet all around me was beauty and my parents were loving and gentle and hopeful for my siblings and my futures. Clearly not the poverty that you write about. Keep on writing.

  76. toritto says:

    First rate and nicely done. Indeed. Regards

  77. A compelling post that forced me to keep reading.

  78. julieyun1 says:

    You’re right about it’s not just them. It’s all of us. Like a quote I can’t erase from my mind – A mother is only as happy as her saddest child. The ignored, deprived, neglected, they’re us. Help each other without question. No reason needs to be asked.

  79. Ankur Mithal says:

    A few years back I read “Angela’s Ashes”, a book about growing-up in a poverty-stricken situation in a small town in Ireland and all the hard work, disappointments, and little pleasures it brought out. It left a deep impression on me. I am reminded of it when I read your post. Of course, there is an additional edge to the situation in the form of violence and crime. Many people, for many different reasons, come to the conclusion that there is no other option. 🙁

  80. germanginge says:

    Outstanding article. I always think of Veronica Guerin and the drugs barons.

  81. Foundations says:

    My “life” is Hell enough. This is even more hell. It is hopeless. The corporates/capitalists have won. No one cares (even so-called friends/family/christians/churches). All through world history some/many suffer (slavery, persecution, poisoning, etc) while others live the good life. All humans are selfish/mean/cruel. Even God doesn’t care and is mean/cruel. This is what we are heading more for here (over half this country just voted for this last week). My father just got a $500 power bill thanks to smart meters. There are increasing homeless and prostitutes etc here. There are homeless in USA. People in UK call beggars lazy and force beneficiaries to pick up rubbush and work-test even people dying on cancer. All so they can have a few dollars more tax cuts.
    The problem/solution isn’t just about poverty/education. On the photos some of the flats/apartments have satellite dishes. I have internet. Michael Jackson was famous yet was lonely. People can suffer things that people don’t care about (eg i’m single/alone at 41).

    “am I my borthers keeper” – Cain.

    “are there not prisons, are there not work houses?” – Scrooge/Dickens.

    “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat” ~ Lilly Tomlin.

    “Give 10 prisoners a dollar and one will come out with all 10”

    “they make a desert and they call it peace [pax]” (- British chief).

    “Men are tired to disgust of money-economy. They hope for salvation from somewhere or other, for some real thing of honour and chivalry, of inward nobility, of unselfishness and duty.” – Spengler.

    “We hang minor thieves and tip our hats to major ones.” (- German proverb.)

    “love your neighbour as yourself” /
    “do unto others as would have done to you”
    ” What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor ” (- the Babylonian Talmud).
    “No one of you is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself” (- the Hadith).
    ” Do not do to others what ye do not wish done to yourself ” – the Hindu Mahabharata.
    “Hurt not others in ways you yourself find hurtful” – Tibetan Dhammapada.
    “Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself” – Confucius.
    (“Love your neighbor, but don’t pull down the fence.” – German proverb.)
    (“charity begins at home”.)

    “Just living is not enough… One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” – Hans Christian Andersen.

  82. Remarkable! Its actually awesome paragraph, I have got
    much clear idea on the topic of from this paragraph.

  83. royce1232 says:

    Dear criticaldispatches,

    I came to your site because of your support of mine. My good fortune. I am 81+and have spent 50 of those years teaching and 26 as a slow-learning, part-time uni student.

    Those years are part of the reason your writing has moved me to tears. You do encounter, in your own life, so much sadness and joy if you live long enough. There is just a little bit more I want to say now.

    I want you to feel that you are not alone. Here am I, a “colonial” Australian, currently being pummelled by merciless, corporate inanity, and longing to add my weight to your struggle. Even more powerfully, I have delighted in sharing my life with Willie Yeats, J M Syng, GBS, Beckett (a cricketer like me), Oscar, Joyce and all the other real, forever inspirers who will be around when the corporate mobsters are nothing more than shredded paper.

    I have come to love your country, even though I have never been there. I sing the songs and love the dancing. The earlier victims of political cruelty were transported here. Their stories too are moving.

    I reckon I’m onto the durable things that give us “ancients” (that’s a good euphemism) the energy and excitement to go on and on through the aches and pains of longevity. I’ve still got so much to learn and your company has added momentum. So Bravo! And on we go.

    1. Right on Royce. 81+ and surfing the web like a pro, fair play to you.

  84. royce1232 says:

    Dear criticaldispatches,

    Thank you for the recent kind words too. Shame on me! I left the ‘e’ off John Millington Synge.

    Not good enough! I’ll read The Playboy again tonight to prove my respect.

  85. Wow! This is a wonderfully written piece. Normally, I wouldn’t read such a long post, but felt compelled to finish it. It saddens me to hear of such suffering in the world. I hope that one day, we will all realize that we live in abundance. There is enough to go around. And no need to do anything but share the prosperity in the world with all of her inhabitants.
    Thank you for writing this piece and also for visiting Tovarysh.

  86. lcd Led Tv says:

    You can certainly see your skills in the work you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe.

    At all times follow your heart.

  87. Thank you for this graphic and moving piece. I have also lived on a problem council overspill estate and know the fear and ambiguous feelings of pity and revulsion it invokes. You are a brilliant writer.

  88. What a great article, could really feel the atmosphere of this place from your article and some, although thankfully not all, of it sounded like the council estate I lived on many years back.

  89. mottyl says:

    I love the honest writing. So refreshing. It is often true that those who suffer most are least likely to say, at least not clearly and confidently. Taught to spin and be spun we have forgotten the art of just saying it, telling it in our own language. Thank you for visiting my blog because it led me to yours. I have always spoken plainly and have suffered for it. I am even more inspired now to keep with honesty and to continue to pull my own language and voice out from under. Truth, for the first time in all of history, seems to be popping its head up in plain and unapologetic language.

  90. Excellent article. How the powers-that-be can believe that concentrating poverty into one place is a good idea is beyond me. This piece should be required reading for every city planner. Great job!

  91. amommasview says:

    What an interesting (and shocking) read…

  92. elfidd says:

    Controlling the masses and the Ghettos keep them away from those who wish to have blinders on. To thine own self be true in your writing. Bring a smile to your and someone else’s face from time to time. Nice photos of the Camden street art. My son in-law travels to some not so nice places in the world, I constantly send him a picture of a feathered DUCK. I post to him in closing “and don’t forget to (DUCK PICTURE) Great writing.

  93. Very well put: both the facts and the opinions. The facts are familiar to me because I live in a large north American city and worked for a formative period of my work life in its ghetto. The history of the treatment of this poverty is, of course, somewhat different here. And there is here, also, the overlay of race on poverty, always simmering. But poverty is poverty here as there.

    As to your opinions, I agree entirely with what you say. I would only emphasize that the violence and poverty of the symbolic and imaginal and spiritual world in which we live here is everywhere here and in all socio-economic classes. This is a direct result of our particular brand of neo-liberal capitalism. That nothing effective is done about real poverty and cultural and spiritual poverties has to do with this last fact.

    Good luck in Chiswick. Bring news from of south of the river.

  94. Coincidentally, demolition of the last tower got underway today. As the crowds stood by, there were mixed feelings among former residents with one woman looking wistfully up as she said she would always have fond memories of what she called home. That feeling seems to transcend so many horrid realities.

  95. lbeth1950 says:

    Sorry your were mugged. I’ve never seen any sign that poverty makes philosophers of us. Having enough makes it some much easier to be reasonable

  96. gertloveday says:

    A wonderful piece. I read in The Guardian recently a comparison of the “slums” of London compared with the HLMs on the outskirts of Paris occupied largely by immigrants, many of them Muslim. The standout is the lack of any human factor in the planning or maintenance of the HLMs, just as you describe here, and the result is that a lot of the young Muslim kids end up involved in all kinds of crime. Then the traditional French complain about the menace of Muslim youth, and so the cycle goes on. You would have to be an exceptional human being to rise above a start in life like this.

  97. Manny Nunez says:

    A very powerful and interesting read.

  98. In some ways, it sounds like Detroit, though the history of its inception differs.

  99. farhanfaizal says:

    Thank you for writing.

  100. Thank you so much for sharing this. It really is sad to hear about what goes on elsewhere in the world. We all get caught up in our own little bubbles, it’s good to have these reminders.


  101. Wow very inspiring and powerful post! You can read my posts for any inspiration, motivation or fashion tips! Once again nice post!

  102. I have listened to that song many times and never knew this. I’ll never listen to it the same again, and will do some more research into this. The plight of the impoverished is rarely spoken in their own voices.

  103. rap2x says:

    Reblogged this on rap2x.

  104. kethuprofumo says:

    Orwell 1984 in reality

  105. Reblogged this on crowdCONNX and commented:
    Gripping story! I was particularity by the author’s frank honesty at his impression when held at knife point. If you read anything today read this.


  106. You have a gift for words. I could not stop reading. Well done.

  107. writegill says:

    Powerful and inspiring focus on a live, raging problem of modern times.

  108. cathy says:

    A very compelling article; thank you.

  109. rhbblog says:

    Well written and very sobering.

  110. oosorio456 says:

    Inequality is becoming increasingly popular in Western Hemisphere

  111. oosorio456 says:

    It’s time to discuss social justice along with tax cuts and start thinking about it.

  112. Manisha says:

    Beautifully written ? what a great read!


    Do check out my new post!

  113. Poetess Dee says:

    That was a long read .. U took me to a world I’ve never to …

  114. Wonderful piece of remembrance.

  115. A.H.K says:

    Looks like much of the mid west of the states. Nice documentation.

  116. trina59 says:

    Thank you for this insightful article. It is not just in Ireland you find places like this, unfortunately.

  117. Beautifully crafted.. just loved the writing.. Please do oblige by reading and posting your opinion on my blog..

  118. himelfarb says:

    Revealing, challenging – excellent post

  119. Ellen B says:

    I drove through Ballymun for years when attending D.C.U. Being from the south east I had never experienced that level of depravity. I was stopped at lights at 8:30 am looking at a girl my own age with a child in a buggy sipping from a brown paper bag. I wouldn’t walk through that community after dark. Wonderful read you have a beautiful style I really enjoyed it.

  120. rachann12 says:

    What an incredible read! The level of details made it impossible not to envision the atmosphere. Thank you for sharing.

  121. inzzzalife says:

    Please check out my new post on my lifestyle blog, from Spain’s coast, Marbella?☀️

  122. Mandy says:

    Félicitations pour cet article ! 🙂

  123. jimmyprime says:

    I agree there is no virtue in poverty

  124. congrats…mattering post…thank you for sharing.

  125. Kally says:

    Thank you for your well written post. Sharing your thoughts are never easy. So thank you.

    1. bkpyett says:

      Thank you for your response. I reblogged this post, and I agree it is well written. Thanks fro sharing it.

  126. Weston Webb says:

    Very informative read, well done! Thank you for sharing this

  127. lmallan1 says:

    Loved this article. It portrays the estate life and the mentality it gives birth to. Thanks for sharing ?

  128. richeyt says:

    Excellently written. A really interesting perspective on how the Irish government deals with issues and the reality of life for those who have to live with the consequences. Really enjoyed it

  129. Keep sharing such an interesting post 🙂

    Hi.. I m new to word-press.. inviting you to see my work .. thanks 🙂

  130. janiceluni54 says:

    Very impressive…wow

  131. theredbreast says:

    Interesting post, and perspective.

  132. theredbreast says:

    If you sometimes find yourself reflecting on the existence of violence, I once read ‘An act of terror’ by Andre Brink. It’s like a chain of voices on the subject.

  133. nihal29 says:

    Great to see that , some one is provoking people towards the issues of society. Unemployment and education in many country.

  134. bodheenyc says:

    Brutally honest. Thanks

  135. netti87 says:

    I like the pics. 🙂 LG

  136. Thats how capitalism works, the war of everyone against everyone else. And of course the police did not come, state, government and police only exist to protect the rich people from the poor. Not the poor from the agression of other poor people.

  137. Brenda says:

    I live in a nice house with a decent garden. I wish everyone could live that way. Good article to make those who have easier financial lives think!

  138. joamo2016 says:

    An amazing piece of writing…almost like I could have written it myself I am a person who lives this life too. Your writing brought tears to my eyes it just reminds me of my life and what I have brought my child into. I am still trying to escape. I have reblogged this and I shall be reading this again. I’m originally from Salford, its not Ireland but the same, exactly the same. still trying to get out of where I thought was a better place…

  139. Toro Alaba says:

    Beautiful Piece…. Visit for similar pieces

  140. Its been saying it’s undergoing renovation. This I’m not seeing for if this post is of recent, it shouldn’t be an embargo of Poverty you describe.

    All the same it’s a true way of fighting for those who don’t believe hope or miracle would come soon.

    Nice description and good use o th pen!

  141. NIDS LOVE BIG EYES says:

    I was in St. Louis when the last of the Pruitt-Igoe project houses came down. Across the street were the family units, and the contrast between the two could not have been more startling. Humans are not meant to live like this, you can see the consequences all too clearly in my own country, where criminals have taken over the “management” of perfectly good apartment blocks and terrorize the people while the building slowly crumbles into squalor around them. Thought you might be interested in this article by ex-prison doctor Theodore Dalrympe on the banlieue’s of Paris. Brutalist architecture. He blames it on the Corbusier fad of the 60’s. Corbusier has a lot to answer for –

  142. dougstuber says:

    Ooh this is outstanding. Chris Hedges has a doppergangel, and it’s you. Look up “The US ROle in Globalization over on mine.

  143. solosocial says:

    As an American, I find this sobering because I tend to focus only on poverty in the United States.

    As an American of Irish descent (on my father’s side), I find this sobering because I tend to focus only on the mythical aspect of Ireland, as well as the historical and prehistorical aspects of Ireland.

    I appreciate this sobering, first-hand report. It is important that I know the truth, no matter how much it hurts.

  144. Pat Torello says:

    Thought provoking and fascinating. I am delighted to have found your profound and informative works. -Sincerely, a captivated new follower.

    1. I’ll be following your work too.

  145. Tiffany Em says:

    I appreciate how much care you took to provide an honest, constructive, and scientific account of your experiences. I can see that you’re both human and invested in articulating the humanity of the situation rather than mindlessly accusing the people of being inferior or immoral…as is what unfortunately often happens in these conversations about American cities (and American black and brown minorities). Thanks for sharing!!

  146. fahrusha says:

    Very distressing view of a sad piece of society from which many would chose to look away. Well written. Sadly there is likely to be more squalor in the future due to environmental degradation and overpopulation.

  147. I studied urban housing in America in early seventies. High rises similar to the ones you descrbe in Ireland wereconsidered the approprate response. One example was Cabrini Green in downtown Chicago. It was so dangerous children couldn’t use the playgrounds and the starwells were rife with crime. They were eventually torn down. A tragic example of poor urban planning and failure to integrate neighborhoos both ethniclly and socio-economically. The growing popularity of the tiny home movement in America is an example of individuals trying to create their own solutions to low cost housing without government assistance

  148. pablovilas13 says:

    Insightful and moving. People for whom society has no use pose a dilemma that’s mostly invisible to the elite, here and everywhere. In Seattle, our underpasses and greenbelts are full of wretched little campsites; local government’s main response has been to harass the campers, perhaps in hopes of moving a difficult problem across the city line. The kind of warehousing described here doesn’t look like a solution either.

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