Our guest speaker this week was the amazing Niall O’Baoill, Culture Co-ordinator of Fatima Groups United. Niall has been involved in community development projects since he was a teenager, when he realised that the best way of getting things done was to do them himself. This ‘Why not?’ attitude formed his career, working with people to create change in their local community by taking collective responsibility. Niall also reflected on the attitude of the nation today, questioning when will we come back to ourselves, take ownership of our feelings and ground the visions and aspirations of the country in common sense.
After emigrating and returning to Ireland, he found an unusual energy in theatre and became founding director of Wet Paint, a company’s whose primary concern was the development of young people’s access to and participation in the arts, developing a dialogue about what Dublin means to the youth through theatre. With this City-wide experience, networking 350 youth organisations, Niall was curious to see if he focused his energies on one community, what would occur. He began working in Fatima, based on an instinct that there was a genesis for change in the area and intrigued by their independent way of looking at things. Since he began working there in 1997, he has facilitated the community to come together and create their own vision for the future of Fatima in ’11 acres 10 steps’ which challenged the planners vision for redevelopment of the area. This bold step let to Dublin City Council publishing it’s first draft plan, giving the people of the area the opportunity to have their say in the plan for Fatima and ensuring greater transparency between the City Council and its citizens. Out of this, he began working with Dublin City Council and the community of Fatima to create a new concept of social regeneration, with a greater parity of power and integrated decision making. This led to the recognition of the importance of the arts in communities and he established the Fatima Arts and Cultural Working Group, bringing together the community and arts organization’s working in Fatima to facilitate the cultural expression of this community’s unique identity.
The Designing Dublin team took a lot from Niall’s work. He has effected long-term change in the Fatima community, repositioning both how they take ownership and how the City Council can provide permission and facilitate this ownership to occur. Emphasizing the importance of not filtering yourself and the importance of being honest to the experience and your feelings, these are wise words to guide the team over the last phase, thank you Niall!