The Mud Island Community - The Faces of Fairview

Nestled behind the houses just off the North Strand lies a beautiful oasis of trees, flowers and herbs. A garden created by the people, for the people of the area, is a hidden gem in Dublin 3.

Before the community garden, there was housing for the elderly. It was then knocked down to create social housing. The Larkin Unemployment Centre had plans to create a family childcare centre. The economic crash came before plans went underway and unfortunately the area was left derelict. The land then became used as a dump.

Fionnuala Halpin, the now chairperson of the Gardens, lived right next to the land dump and felt there needed to be something done about it. She had asked Tony Gregory, the then TD, to help her in removing it as a dump and use the space for something more constructive to the area.  Tony Louth, another local in the community, called a meeting and sought out if people would be interested in making compost and growing their own plants and vegetables. There was already a keen interest for that to happen in this specific location. The idea then flourished for The Mud Island Community Garden.

Fionnuala, John Hannigan and Maeve Foreman were the first three signatories to start the plans for the garden. From 2009 until 2011, they fought to use the land for the community garden. Finally, the three became licensees of the area and that is where it all began. They then started to apply for grants to help fund the development of the garden. Luckily, at the time, the Community Foundation of Ireland had just started creating a fund for community gardens and became their main funder for the first couple of years. The generosity, time and energy given by the volunteers have made the Garden what it is today. It has been a slow and steady effort by everyone involved and from what I can gather a family of close friends has evolved from this magnanimous creation.

If there are no plans to develop in the near future there are hopes that they can have electricity and water provided for the site which will be extremely helpful when running events. Each person that gets involved has something valuable to contribute towards the growing and development of the gardens. The ethos is to give people a shared sense of ownership to the Mud Island Community Gardens.

How to become a member of the Mud Island Community Garden? If you are employed, it is €10 a year and €5 a year for the unemployed. You can take part as much or as little as you like. You can come and enjoy social events or really get stuck into the gardening aspect of things. Either way, I feel this is just a wonderful way to integrate with the community, make long-lasting friends and help to contribute to something special.

These Faces of Fairview (North Strand to be more correct!)

Máirín de Burca - Faces of Fairview

If you don’t know who Máirín de Burca is, I would suggest taking the time to watch Cathal Black’s documentary 5 Red Roses which is an interesting portrayal of Máirín’s life. Then go and listen to The Irish Time’s Women’s Podcast (ep 294) for an in depth interview with Máirín by Kathy Sheridan. For now though enjoy a brief history of Máirín the way she relayed it to me whilst sitting in her cosy sun room, drinking coffee and eating chocolate.  What a day!

After coming back to Ireland from America Máirín de Burca and her family resided in the countryside. There was little to do when she was a teenager other than going to school and the library, so she invested a lot of her time reading. Her books were chosen by their size so as to make them last the week that she had them for. One day, she chose The Young Irelanders for this very reason. She had no idea the profound effect it would have on her then but after reading it she immediately decided that she was going to join Sinn Féin. She was 14 years old then and, unfortunately for her, still too young but on her 16th birthday she went and signed up.

During that time, Sinn Féin’s main aim was the reunification of Ireland which suited Máirín fine until she left in 1962 after the Border Campaign ended. A couple of years later she re-joined and became General Secretary of the party. Sinn Féin was heavily involved in fighting to develop the housing conditions in Dublin. They were also very involved in anti-Vietnam war and anti-Apartheid protests.

One particular anti-Vietnam war protest got Máirín and her friends a 3 month sentence in prison. They decided to burn down the US flag at the American Embassy and throw balloons filled with cow’s blood at the steps of the Embassy. A peaceful but highly effective protest that wasn’t forgotten.

It was during her time in prison that she decided that when she got out, she was going to start to fight for women’s rights in Ireland. Together with a group of like-minded women she set up The Women’s Liberation Movement. None of them quite realised the extent of work they had ahead of them as there were so many discriminations against women in this country at the time. Most women just took it as the norm. A few of the 10 demands that they had were the rights to contraception, equality before the Law, equal pay,  equal educational opportunities and one family, one house. From there, the members branched out to develop their own movements such as Cherish, a single mother’s movement and Irish Women United, a movement to fight for gay rights.

During a housing demonstration, Máirín and her friend were arrested and for some reason her solicitor suggested they should go for a trial by jury which she had never done before. It was then that she realised that the jury was only men and secondly men that owned property. Under advise from Mary Robinson, Máirín challenged the Jury’s Act. Her solicitors worked pro-bono for 5 years on the case and eventually won the case in 1975 on two grounds. Firstly, women were allowed to sit the jury and secondly, anyone, home owner or not could sit. From then on jury members were pulled from the electoral registrar.

Máirín worked as a journalist after leaving Sinn Féin but in her early 50s she decided that it was time to retire after working since the age of 14 years old. She had recently bought a house in Fairview and decided that she was going to volunteer for the Credit Union. She has been working with them ever since. Máirín fell in love with Fairview and was instantly drawn to its sense of community. She made long lasting friends who still live in the area. Her admiration for the local store owners such as Victor from Edge Hardware, Ciaran from the Veterinary Hospital and Damian from Duggans Jewellers LDT, to name but a few, is immense and she adores the ‘village’ quality that Fairview has continued to hold for so many years.

In her words, ‘Even if I won the lottery, I would never leave Fairview!’.

Martin McGowen - Faces of Fairview

Dublin is such a small city! After researching this project I realised Martin is the father of a dear friend and has also been John’s mechanic for over 10 years! Martin has been associated with Fairview and Marino ever since he was 9 years old when he used to play football in Fairview Park. In his early 20’s he joined the CY Football Club in Fairview and played with them for 10 years until his knees started to give him trouble. He then got married and started a family. During that time he partnered up with one of his friends and they worked together in his garage for just over 7 years. Since then, Martin has run the garage by himself and this year celebrates having his own successful business in Fairview for 35 years.

Martin has made many great friends whilst working and playing football in Fairview. He states that Fairview has always been a fantastic community and the people have always had a friendly nature, throughout generations. ‘Fairview really is a jewel!’. All his customers are regulars who have been coming to him year after year. He has never had to advertise for his business, everyone who has walked into his garage has come from word of mouth. His choice to keep his business in Fairview was a no brainer.  He loves the customers he has and ‘You can’t beat walking onto Fairview Strand and always getting at least 6 or 7 hellos!’

Martin is a big believer that one must keep at their hobbies and passions aside from work. When he stopped playing football, he took to marathon running, then golfing and then fell in love with deep-sea diving. He travels all over Ireland and the world to dive. He and his wife love to travel the world together. (I can see so much of Denise in him as he speaks!) They have raised 4 incredible women who have all gone on to succeed in their lives but still have a seriously close bond with their parents. Martin is a true gent who is totally in love with his family and has a genuine zest for life.

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