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crime world Episode 52: The final days of the once-notorious Ballymun Towers

How one photographer documented the last days of the infamous housing scheme


Nicola Tallant, Sunday World investigations editor

Nicola Tallant, Sunday World investigations editor

Nicola Tallant, Sunday World investigations editor

It was the greatest social housing disaster in Ireland’s history - one which promised new beginnings for countless tenement families but instead became ground zero for the heroin epidemic.

When the State ordered the demolition of Ballymun’s seven towers to make way for new housing it hoped to wipe away the mistakes of the past, but one of the country’s most promising film-makers was there to document the end of that era.

In the 16 years since photographer Ross McDonnell was first invited into the blocks on a Halloween night with a camera slung round his neck, the Dubliner has won an Emmy, been shortlisted for the world’s most prestigious photography award and made a highly-acclaimed series about Mexican drug cartels, Honduran people smugglers and even Afghan beekeepers.

But, Ballymun has always remained in his heart and now his new book, 'Joyrider', features the images he captured in those last days of the towers. He tells Nicola Tallant about the friends he made in the chaotic concrete jungle where he found warmth, hope and an unbreakable spirit. And he describes the invaluable life lessons he was thought on the landings of Ireland’s most notorious housing project.

Crime Word Podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Soundcloud.

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