Sunday 21 July 2019

Locals living in fear of 'Sunday gangs'

Residents up in arms over anti-social behaviour as up to 100 youths arrive in Drumgoold every Sunday

Gardaí maintain a presence in Drumgoold on Sunday
Gardaí maintain a presence in Drumgoold on Sunday

Pádraig Byrne

Local councillor Paddy Kavanagh has called for urgent action to be taken on policing huge gangs of youths that congregate in the Drumgoold area of town every Sunday.

The Fine Gael councillor, who lives a short distance from the area in question, has stated that each Sunday the area sees an influx of anywhere between 50 and 70 teenagers and young adults, coming from as far away as the Midlands, Waterford, Carlow and Bray.

Cllr Kavanagh says that the level of anti-social behaviour has become a problem with the youngsters 'racing vans and high-powered cars', doing handbrake turns and putting local residents in fear.

'The people up there have been putting up with this for a long time,' he said. 'They're racing vans around the car park up there. People can't get their children to sleep because of the noise and screeching tyres. If local people want to go to the shop of a Sunday they do it in the morning because they're afraid to go up there when all this is going on. The local take-away there have had to start doing deliveries on a Sunday because people don't go near the place.'

The anti-social behaviour in the area is said to be having a significant impact on local business, with the Daybreak Filling Station particularly losing out, as a focal point for these congregations.

'It is having a major impact on us and on our business,' said Vincent Griffin, Operations Manager ADFuels, who own and operate the Chapel Lane service station. 'We tried to put some measures in place a while back to minimise the amount of cars and vans coming in and parking up. We erected some barriers of a Sunday, as a health and safety measure for our staff and customers. But the take-away there took them down as they needed parking for their customers.'

Among the anti-social behaviour described as commonplace by Mr Griffin were blasting loud music from cars, screeching tyres around the car park and driving dangerously at high speeds in the area. He also mentioned another particular incident which could have had frightening consequences.

'Around Halloween we had an incident where they were trying to set off fireworks on the forecourt,' he said. 'We're dealing with this kind of behaviour constantly.'

Mr Griffin was keen to stress that the local community are very supportive of the shop and were in no way involved in this kind of behaviour, and he pointed out that many people were afraid to shop with them at certain times.

'It's the residents in Marlfield and Gimont that are being impacted as much as we are,' he said. 'They are our community and they've been very supportive. A lot of the time, the local residents feel that they are not safe crossing over to the shop and that they are not able to shop with us of a Sunday. We've spoken with them about it and tried to address it. We've also met with the gardaí and they've said they will provide some additional support in the area, but I suppose they're limited in what they can do. We can't ring them every Sunday and tell them there's a situation again. We do need more support up here though. The situation is getting out of hand.'

Cllr Kavanagh said that while he would sympathise with bored teenagers, this behaviour was beyond the pale.

'I have sympathy for any teenagers and young people who are hanging around with nothing to do, but being disrespectful to the people in the area won't endear them to anyone. I would hate to think what would happen if a local child was knocked by one of these people speeding around in their vans.'

Speaking in relation to the reasons behind these large scale meet-ups, Cllr Kavanagh said he believed it could be related to courting or 'grabbing' as it is referred to in Traveller culture.

Similar problems in New Ross were highlighted last week when a shop-owner in Irishtown stated that she was contemplating closing up as a result of the anti-social antics of gangs of traveller youths.

'There's two towns in County Wexford that are having problems with this kind of behaviour,' Cllr Kavanagh pointed out. 'Why are they coming down here? Is it because we're a soft touch? Are the gardaí here a soft touch?'

The councillor said that he, along with residents of the Drumgoold area, had met with local Sgt Colum Matthews and Supt Gerry McGrath at Enniscorthy Garda Station with a view to tackling the problem and gardaí had agreed to increase their patrols in the area.

'They see the guards coming over the bridge in Enniscorthy and as soon as they do, they're on the phone and they're gone,' he said.

'It is an ongoing problem,' conceded Sgt Matthews. 'We have had increased patrols in the area and this is something we will continue to do.

'It is something that's being looked at though and we have arranged to have further meetings with residents, business owners and councillors in the area with a view to coming up with a solution. I think with a bit of work from everyone, it is something that can be resolved.

'This situation has been going on for a long time and it is being treated seriously,' he added. 'A lot of decent people up there are being majorly put out by what's going on there every Sunday.'

Cllr Kavanagh also pointed out that Mr Davin Power, who had been in charge of the Traveller Inclusion Programme based in Drumgoold, had finished up in the role back in November and that neither the members, nor council officials had been informed. He had hoped he could act as somewhat of an intermediary to bring about some kind of solution.

'Somebody will have to talk to the parents of these youngsters,' Cllr Kavanagh concluded.

'They are making life unbearable for the locals up there.'

Enniscorthy Guardian