History of the project

  • 2010’s

In 2010 preparations got underway to organise a series of events to mark Ballymun Youth Action Projects 30th anniversary which was to take place in March 2011. A seminar on ‘Headshop and Internet Drugs – An old story told in a new way?’ was organised by Ballymun Youth Action Project. The two-year ‘Diploma in Community Drug Work’ ran again in partnership with UCD under their Community Partnership Drugs Programme from September 2010 to May 2012.

March 2011 sees a series of events taking place to mark our 30th anniversary, including President McAleese’s second visit to the Horizons Centre and a major national conference on substance misuse. The final events of this celebration included a Celebration Event for Service Users in November 2011. Also November 2011 saw the launch of two reports on substance misuse. The first report, “Seen but not heard” documents the proceedings of the conference on substance misuse that took place in Dublin Castle in March 2011. The second report, “Fact or Fiction” looks at young people’s attitudes to drugs and alcohol-related issues.

2012 was a significant year for the project at a number of different levels. The Boxing Clever Programme started, this is a 20 week health and fitness/educational programme for participants who are highly motivated and stabilised in their drug use, and/or drug free. The programme involves both BYAP and Urrús, in partnership with the HSE Rehabilitation and Integration Service, and DCU in the Community. The Community Detox Pilot Programme began and works to facilitate access to community detox from methadone or benzodiazepines. At the end of 2012 we saw the start of one more initiative, the Infant Parent Support Worker role. This role aims to meet the needs of children and parents where there are issues related to problem drug and/or alcohol use in the infant stages of the child’s life. This post is funded through the BLDTF. In regard to community based drug and alcohol education Urrús in partnership with UCD’s School of Applied Social Science, redeveloped the Diploma in Community Drug and Alcohol Work (NFQ Level 7) which then became a one-year programme.

The steering group on the National Substance Misuse Strategy published their report in 2012. This is the first time that drugs and alcohol were both dealt with in the same policy document at Governmental level. From our perspective this is a significant step forward. The Ballymun Youth Action Project has always recognised that alcohol is very much part of the reality that we work with. With the proposals in the new strategy we see the possibility of a much more coherent response to the whole issue of substance misuse as it affects individuals, families, and communities.

During 2013 the Infant Parent Support Coordinator role became well established. The initiative was developed to meet the needs of children and parents where there are issues related to problem drug and/or alcohol use antenatal and in the infant stages of the child’s life. As the first project of its kind nationally, the initial year has been an important one as the Coordinator worked to establish the project and to identify the best ways of working with this group. The year was also been marked by the tragic deaths of young people. Between 31st May and the 10th June 2013, five young people died in Ballymun. Their deaths affected the community enormously. There has been a renewal of efforts at all levels to address the needs of this specific group, and to be vigilant about not accepting that this is the fate of our young people. The Community Detox programme continues to support people to reduce or stop their use of methadone or benzodiazepines through a structured non-residential process involving keyworkers and prescribing doctors. Urrús provided training to 529 participants during the year. The ongoing national financial situation has impacted services as funding continues to be very restricted, with workers in BYAP on reduced staffing levels.

Throughout 2014, 710 individuals had direct contact with the services through BYAP Core, Day Programme, Contact, Aftercare, the Infant Parent Support coordinator and the GP Counselling Service. During 2014 two Counsellors from BYAP began to deliver a service within the GP Practices of the Primary Care Team in Ballymun. Initially providing support to GP’s in relation to patients that were facing difficulties around their benzodiazepine use, the service has been expanded to include GP patients who are seeking to address their alcohol use, and those wishing to detox.

The year began with a conference hosted by the Department of Health to look at the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016. Amongst other things the conference reaffirmed the centrality of partnership in any effective response, whether locally and nationally. Meanwhile the other significant policy context, The National Substance Misuse Strategy continues to be operative. Within this strategy there is clear support for stronger partnership between the statutory and the community and voluntary sectors. There is no doubt that having two strategies at the same time does have an impact on planning and seeking to establish sustainable ways of working. At the same time the thrust of both strategies towards the integration of services is welcome news for projects like BYAP coming from a community development and holistic approach. In the area of practice there were significant developments during the year. The CARE Project commenced, a community alcohol treatment project which provides a localised integrated care pathway for those presenting with alcohol problems in Ballymun, Finglas and Dublin North City and County. The Ballymun Youth Guarantee Pilot was initiated, and included interventions to address the substance use issues faced by young people who engaged. The Ballymun STRIVE Programme, a joint agency response to crime, also moved into start-up phase during 2014.

As research is one element of BYAP’s alliance with UCD’s Community Partnership Drugs Programme, it was decided in 2014 to undertake a research project of the Boxing Clever programme. The earlier programmes had been evaluated utilising process and outcome evaluation tools. The aim of the research was to consider the impact and outcomes of the Boxing Clever programme for participants and the community. It also investigated the efficacy of inter-agency relationships and communication in delivering the programme.

In February 2015 the UCD/BYAP research alliance launched its report of the Boxing Clever Programme, ‘Boxing Clever – Exploring the impact of a substance use rehabilitation programme.’ The research considered the outcomes and impacts in relation to education, physical fitness and wellbeing, and recovery from substance use or other harmful behaviours. It also investigated the efficacy of inter-agency relationships and communication in delivering the programme.

The UCD/BYAP research alliance began another piece of research in 2015 that explored the efficacy and challenges of delivering low threshold substance use services within a community setting, with particular consideration of practitioner approaches.

Quilt Programme started in September, 8 participants got involved to develop and make a quilt together.

Day Programme and CASC Certificate Presentation took place in November. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality and Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with special responsibility for Equality, New Communities and Culture and Drugs Strategy presented the certificates.

In June 2016 the UCD/BYAP research alliance launched a report, ‘Community based low threshold substance use services: Practitioner approaches and challenges.’ The aim of the research was to explore the efficacy and challenges of delivering low threshold substance use services within a community setting, with particular consideration of practitioner approaches.

The UCD Community Partnership Drugs Programme (School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice) and the Ballymun Youth Action Project through Urrús continued their partnership in regard to community based drug and alcohol education. The Diploma in Community Drug and Alcohol Work (NFQ Level 7) is delivered annually.

  • 2000’s

In 2000 the Ballymun Youth Action Project (BYAP) began a letter-writing campaign to the Government for monies to be put aside for the premises needs of voluntary drug agencies; Citywide and many organisations throughout Ireland supported this initiative. It was announced in the budget that capital funding for drugs projects would be made available. Ballymun Youth Action Project held an exhibition titled ‘Back to the Future’ in the Ballymun Shopping Centre.  The exhibition told the story of Ballymun from its inception to present day, depicting when the physical and social corrosion began to set in, and the history of the agency throughout this time.  It highlighted when the first NA meeting was set up on the Northside of Dublin and the establishment of many of the community organisations to deal with the neglect of the community, leading to the terrific community spirit with which Ballymun has always been associated. Supporters and staff of Ballymun Youth Action Project take to the streets for the Women’s Mini-Marathon to raise money for our much-needed building.

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) was set up in 2000 to advise the Government regarding problem drug use in Ireland and to oversee the delivery of a comprehensive drugs research programme. The Committee was made up of community, statutory, voluntary, academic, research organisations and relevant Government Departments.

2001 saw staff of the project being trained in acupuncture, so that service-users could avail of this complementary therapy. The launch of the research report, ‘Movers and Shakers – a study of community involvement in responding to the drugs issue’ – based on data from participants who took part in the Community Addiction Studies Course from 1994 to 1999 – took place.

Ballymun Youth Action Project celebrated its 21st Birthday in 2002.  A number of events were held, including a day-long party in Axis Ballymun with an exhibition telling the history of the organisation and crucial community events. The launch of our website and the publication of a selection of poems and short stories ’21 Years On’ also takes place. We were granted funding under the community / voluntary sector research grant scheme for research on Benzodiazepines.

In 2003 BYAP agrees to become a partner with UCD in its Community Drugs Research, along with Bray and Crumlin.

With funding support from the NACD’s Community/Voluntary Sector Research Grant Scheme, BYAP undertook to research benzodiazepine use in Ballymun. The use and misuse of benzodiazepines had been an issue of concern within the Ballymun community for a number of years and this research project sought to explore the phenomenon with a view to proposing appropriate responses. The research report ‘Benzodiazepines – whose little helper? – the role of benzodiazepines in the development of substance misuse problems in Ballymun’ was launched in October 2004.

In 2005 work begins on the Horizons building, which it is planned will house the Ballymun Youth Action Project, Urrús, Aftercare and the Contact Project (which is due to come on stream in summer 2005). Through Urrús the Ballymun Youth Action Project worked in partnership with UCD (School of Applied Social Science) to develop our, NFQ Level 7 programme, ‘Diploma in Community Drugs Work’ the first two-year course began in September 2005.

March 2006 Ballymun Youth Action Project is 25 years old. In June of that year we moved into our new Horizons building. Minister Noel Ahern officially opened the Horizons Centre in October. The Contact Project came on stream in December. In November “A Community Drugs Study: Developing Community Indicators for Problem Drug Use” was published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. The research team was led by Dr. Mary Ellen McCann and Dr Hilda Loughran, both of UCD, and examined the experiences of three communities experiencing problem drug use – Ballymun, Bray and Crumlin.

President Mary McAlesse unveils a plaque on her visit to BYAP’s new premises in February 2007. As part of our 25th anniversary programme of events, we held open days and ran a series of information / educational workshops. Our first Level 7 Diploma course is completed in May.

The ‘Diploma in Community Drugs Work’ ran again in partnership with UCD from September 2008 to May 2010. We undertook research to include the ‘community experience’ with methadone, making sure the voice and experience of local people in relation to methadone is documented.

In 2009 a needs analysis shows a lack of social activities for those in recovery, so the drug / alcohol-free social night is established. The Government established a steering group to formulate an alcohol policy.

  • 1990’s

When it came to celebrating the 10th birthday of Ballymun Youth Action Project (BYAP) in 1991, a committee was formed, which included staff, local parents, members of the management committee and service-users – almost all of whom were from Ballymun – to plan how best to mark the occasion. The ensuing programme of celebratory events strongly reflected the organisation’s focus on community development principles: it was designed as a weekend for local people to reflect on – and celebrate – the achievements of the Project and to plan for its future direction. A conference was held, with a focus on two-way dialogue and ideas-sharing, rather than keynotes speeches and high-profile guests.  In the wake of the celebrations, a publication –   ‘Ten Years On – A History of the Ballymun Youth Action Project, a community response to drug and alcohol abuse’ – was produced.

The organisation has continued to develop in response to the needs of the local community.  In 1995 Ballymun Youth Action Project is highly commended in the Community Development category of the 1995 Guinness Living Dublin Awards. Also that year the pilot Community Addiction Studies Course was completed.

BYAP’s first Friends Remembering Friends Memorial Service took place in 1995 – this is now an annual event. Our Friends Remembering Friends event provides us with a space to remember people connected with the Ballymun Youth Action Project, whether as Committee Members, Staff, Service Users, Volunteers, etc.

In 1996 Ballymun Youth Action Project founded Urrús – Ireland’s Community Addiction Studies Training Centre – to provide training in relation to drug misuse.  The Community Addiction Studies Course begins to be replicated in many communities around Dublin and Ireland; the course carries a minor award at Level 5 on the NFQ. BYAP gives a presentation at the Commission on the Family conference. Also that year the Drug Treatment Programme in the Medical Unit of Mountjoy Prison begins and BYAP delivers the therapeutic component of the programme, ‘Inner Journey Group.’

In 1997 Urrús develops the course, ‘Further Training in Community Drugs Work’. The same year Urrús / Ballymun Youth Action Project hold the conference, ‘Joint Systems Approaches’, in the Shelbourne Hotel. The findings of this conference lead to a number of practitioners from the Ballymun area and Galway visiting Denmark, where they see firsthand the Danish model of joint systems approaches for children and young people.  This leads the group to draft a plan for Ballymun to establish a ‘local authority for children’.  Ballymun Partnership fully support this initiative and it becomes known as the Childhood Resource Centre.

In 1998 Urrús facilitated a conference in Dublin Castle as part of European Drug Prevention Week, entitled ‘Leading the Way – Promoting Local Participation and Partnerships in the Response to Drug Use’. As part of European Drug Prevention Week, Ballymun Youth Action Project produces ‘Our Home – Our Story’ and organises a week-long series of events with Ballymun Local Drug Task Force: schools Drug / Alcohol Awareness Competition (this competition ran until 2011 with all schools taking part); Youth Club competition; open meetings; information sessions. Ballymun Youth Action Project becomes the project promoters for the Springboard Project and Project Managers for the Aftercare Counsellor; both are Ballymun Local Drugs Task Force initiatives. As the project continued to grow BYAP began the process of looking at its premises needs.

In 1999 BYAP / Urrús develop ‘Community Development Course in a Drugs Setting’ – this course was accredited at FETAC Level II. Also in 1999, Ballymun Youth Action Project and the Ballymun Youthreach participants represent Ballymun in the ‘Irish’ Last World Cup in Galway and come home with the prize for best kit.


Throughout the 1990’s the Ballymun community continued to be active in highlighting the issues that were affecting the community; in 1995 residents took to the streets with the Drug Marches; communities begin to fight back. Also Ballymun campaigns to have a real say in the drug services that the Health Board wants to put into the Ballymun community. In 1996 the Drug Watches begin in Ballymun – residents monitor who is coming and going into their areas to cut down on drug supply and the entrance of their homes being used as shooting galleries. In July 1996 the Government set up a Ministerial Task Force to identify measures needed for a more effective response to the drug problem and the “First report of the Ministerial Task Force on measures to reduce the demand for drugs” was published later that year. 1996 also saw Dublin Corporation announce the setting up of Ballymun Regeneration Ltd (BRL).  This company is charged with putting together a plan to refurbish the area of Ballymun, including the economic and social regeneration of the area.

1997 saw Domville House (Northern Health Board), a satellite clinic, open in Ballymun against opposition from the community who wanted to have a real say in the services that were being provided. The Government set up the Local Drugs Task Force and Ballymun was awarded half a million pounds to combat the drug problem. Also that year the “Second report of the Ministerial Task Force on measures to reduce the demand for drugs” was published. BRL’s masterplan is presented to the Government in 1997, recommending the demolition of the flats complexes in Ballymun.

The Gamma statistics for Ballymun show each ward as scoring 10, indicating that Ballymun is still one of the most deprived Partnership Areas in the country.

  • 1980’s

In the 1960s, Ballymun was developed by Dublin Corporation with the aim of providing a progressive and modern alternative to inner-city tenement housing. By 1969, an entire community had been created, miles from Dublin city and lacking most of the facilities and services needed for day-to-day life.

Problems soon began to arise. The idea that Ballymun could provide a new model for urban housing quickly faded, as poverty and related social problems began to prevail. Exacerbated by the economic recession of the 1970s and 1980s, Ballymun deteriorated into an area associated with high levels of unemployment; social problems, and economic, social and physical decline.

Against this backdrop, Ballymun Youth Action Project (BYAP) was founded in 1981, shortly after three young people from the area had died from drug-related causes. The purpose of the Project was to find a way to respond to the drug use that was creeping into the community and to develop and organise community alternatives to drug-taking. Initially, the Project strove to address the needs of the youth population; the specific needs of drug-taking youth, their families and friends, and the need for preventative community education in relation to drug use.

The understanding of the founding group was colossal. In effect what they were saying by their actions was “We don’t have an easy answer. We don’t know what to do. Neither do the experts. But together we can work at it.” They saw that a different approach was needed. They did not merely look to the statutory agencies to provide services. They looked to their own community, a community beset with major problems which were outside their control, and they believed that a way forward could be found.

Having spent some time considering the nature of the problem they were dealing with, the committee were keenly aware of the need to learn as much as possible about drug addiction, and to start educating the community about it. The committee took part in a 10 session training programme on drug addiction, how it progresses, how it effects individuals, and families, and what help is available. They wanted to know more about the person who came through the door, either strung out themselves, or living with a family member who was. Thus the programme was based around the model of addiction being a primary disorder, not being predictable but recognisable, describable and very importantly recoverable! They also began to learn about the existing addiction which was in their community, and finding out how to respond to that. They wanted to make recovery more possible in their area.

The group were to say, after that programme, that it had brought them together, and given them a structure to work with. It made sense to them. They knew about living with addiction and alcoholism, and it gave them confidence to be able to understand and describe it so well. It was now May, 1983. The group was two years in existence.

Founding members aims for the project: –

  1. To develop a community response to drug abuse.
  2. To provide an information/advice/support service for people caught in the cycle of drug abuse, and their families.
  3. To develop preventative services, particularly in relation to young people at risk or vulnerable to drug abuse.
  4. To engage in community education on drug abuse.
  5. To work closely with other voluntary and statutory groups providing community services.
  6. To facilitate research into drug abuse in the area.

By 1985 some of BYAP’s activities included: – providing advice and information; counselling sessions; home visits; school visits; youth club visits; and education sessions.

Meanwhile, the legal entity of the Youth Action Project had taken much discussion on the committee. This far in its history, 1986, there was a working constitution and YAP was a registered employer. The ever-present danger of falling into the trap of becoming a professional service, and neglecting the integrated community concept, sometimes seemed like the only way to ensure that individuals who came to us received sound professional help, consistently. This is still the danger. YAP was providing a service, yes – because no other existed in our community for our people. Therefore this is a need. But ownership of the work and the development, must always remain rooted in the community, close enough to the ground for decisions to be relevant, and people to play their part, whatever that might be. This is what makes it different and effective.

So, there were many struggles in the early years of the project; and people continued to meet and endeavour to face the challenges. This all took place against a backdrop of change, change for those involved, some moving on to other areas to live or for work reasons. New people got involved and over time with a focus to build on what had been achieved thus far continued the work.

Characterised from the very beginning by the direct involvement of people from the local community – including teenagers – by the time BYAP celebrated its 10th birthday, the management committee predominantly comprised local residents, while four of the Project’s seven staff members were also from Ballymun.

roseThe project’s logo: – For a few years, there was no logo which could adequately depict the Youth Action Project. Those involved weren’t happy with anything suggested. Until the rosebud; a rosebud is very beautiful. It a sign of love and care; it is delicate yet very strong. It is not yet a full flower, but we can see the promise of that flower, if the bud is well looked after so that it can grow. The rosebud also has thorns, which protects it as it grows. It was decided that yes, this was a sign that adequately depicted the Youth Action Projects’ work. The rosebud was suggested and designed by a young Ballymun woman, Sandra Brennan.