independent

Monday 26 August 2019

Courtown remains in state of shock

Major garda investigation under way into allegations that a young girl was raped and two others assaulted by a group of males

The scene preserved at the Burrow, Courtown for forensic examination as the
Garda investigation first got under way
The scene preserved at the Burrow, Courtown for forensic examination as the Garda investigation first got under way
Cllr Joe Sullivan
Fr Tom Dalton
Clare Williams

Cathy Lee

The community of Courtown is still struggling to come to terms with the allegations that three young teenaged girls were assaulted, and one raped, by a group of males, at the Burrow area of Courtown over a week ago.

A major Garda investigation remains in place as no arrests have yet been made, and a special incident room has been set up at Gorey Garda Station. Gardaí are still appealing for information, in particular to anyone who may have been in the Burrow area of Courtown at approximately 12.15 a.m. on Sunday, July 28.

The three girls involved are believed to be from west Dublin. There is a possibility that the suspects are also under the age of 18 and from a different part of Leinster.

Amid mixed news reporting and concern for the wellbeing of the young people involved, the people of Courtown have expressed sadness and shock at this unexpected turn of events.

Ellen Hughes of Courtown Hibs Football Club, who trains teenage girls at the club, said that young people there are concerned.

'It's hard to know what to believe as this all escalated so quickly. We work with minors and it is so important to keep them safe. I train the under 12s girls and it is a big concern for all of us. This has been the number one topic among the young girls themselves. It's dreadful to think it could happen so close,' said Ellen.

'I hope to God they will find whoever is responsible. People here feel a bit frightened that there is somebody out there that may have done this. As a parent of a young girl, I feel we are more protective of her. Courtown is very safe once you know where they are and who they're with and who their friends are.

'We are out playing football a lot at the moment, and there are so many facilities for the children and they're perfectly safe. In a group doing sport, everyone is there together and the young people are very happy when they're playing sport,' she said.

Courtown Surf Life Saving has also expressed sorrow.

'While we are disheartened and appalled to hear of the recent allegations, we feel the Gardaí, with whom we have a good relationship, are working to keep community safety a focus. Courtown Surf Lifesaving is well supervised and has parental and adult supervision at all times, we are well covered by the extent of supervision we have while engaged in training,' a spokesperson said.

'Like all people using the Burrow we would advise cooperation with an Garda Síochána should anything unusual be observed and to keep safety a priority when near the water'.

Riverchapel PP, Fr Tom Dalton, has expressed his sympathy to all involved at this time.

'We are all very shocked at what has happened. We hear about these things happening in other places but when it comes down on our own doorstep, it makes it more real. Generally, this is a very safe place to be and people come to relax on holidays and have a positive experience. There is an awful sadness that this would happen at all, but I suppose it's a reflection on society at the moment,' he said.

'As a society, we have a whole lot of questioning and soul searching to do. We have been praying for everyone that has been affected, whether they be girls, boys, families and the Gardaí. We are reassuring people that have been affected that there are different agencies there to help to talk to and be listened to'.

Ardamine Riverchapel Courtown development group expressed its concern for the area as a whole.

'As a community, we are shocked and saddened by the serious incident in the Burrow last weekend, this is not the type of crime that anyone thought would happen in our area. We are now concerned for the safety of our teenagers, so everyone is more aware of taking better safety precautions.

'It also highlights the need for the bylaws to be enforced better as well as the proposed CCTV to be installed without any further delay.

'The redevelopment of the Burrow needs to be looked at also, to make it safer for all. Courtown Harbour is a beautiful and welcoming place for tourists to come and enjoy and this incident is not a true reflection of our community.

'We hope those affected are receiving all the help and support that they need to recover from this horrible ordeal,' the group said in a statement.

Former councillor, Robert Ireton of Courtown Community Council, said that the locals and business people on the ground in Courtown are trying their best to get back to normal.

'People are still doing their day to day stuff around the carnival and funfair but people are going to be more vigilant from now on. It's a once-off incident, and the publicity is no worse than it would be if it happened any other place, nobody escapes that. Hopefully this incident is one that will never be seen here again.

'People have been very good on informing the Gardaí, and they should be congratulated. This could be a wake up call for parents to be vigilant of their teenage children and keep a very close eye on them, making them more aware of where they are, what they're doing and who they're with.

'It's still very safe in Courtown but this is supposed to be the highlight of the business season here, things here are dampening that with other more petty crimes like shops being robbed. It's making life very difficult for them to continue in business,' he said.

Cllr Joe Sullivan, a former member of An Garda Síochána, said that the incident is regrettable.

'It is regrettable but it has happened and we must ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice, and make the place safe for everyone. This is not the Courtown we represent as a Municipal District,' said Cllr Sullivan.

'The people of Courtown are behind the Gardaí and I will be putting on pressure for a greater garda presence in the area during the high season as we have this swell of numbers of the area. When people are more relaxed on their holidays, they may not be as aware of danger. We need a good enforcement of a garda presence as it makes them more comfortable.

'Courtown is as good a holiday venue as anywhere, and there are lots of things to do and a whole coastline to be explored with our brilliant beaches in the south east. There is no need to feel unsafe, and if you have plans to come to the south east, include Courtown in that visit.

'With regard to bylaws, I would be satisfied that the laws we have in place are adequate to see this summer out and over the coming months, we will review the by-laws and update them. The safety of locals and tourists here is paramount to us all, it will be given the time and effort that it deserves.'

Given the nature of this case, Wexford Rape Crisis has advised reaching out to agencies and contacting Gardaí if you are a victim of a sexual assault.

'Following a sexual assault, you may decide to attend one of six sexual assault treatment units across the country, and Waterford is the closest to Wexford. These units provide specialist care for women and men who have recently been sexually assaulted or raped. If you are under 18 years of age, you must have a parent or legal guardian with you to give permission for a forensic examination,' said Clare Williams, manager of Wexford Rape Crisis Centre.

She explained that the treatment units respond to requests from Gardaí to aid the legal process but provide services for people who do not wish to report the incident.

'There is no charge for any of these services or follow up appointments. They can be accessed via the Gardaí, or by contacting the unit nearest you. Free counselling is available from Wexford Rape Crisis in Wexford town, Gorey, Enniscorthy and New Ross and the service also has a dedicated adolescent counselling service in Wexford town.

Clare said that the reporting of sexual assaults in the media can trigger flashbacks, anxiety and depression and it is important to take due care.

'Remember that you are in control of what you read and listen in the media. Deciding to turn off the radio or not read an article may be a good and safe option for some people. If you are subjected to certain news articles, giving yourself some time and space to ascertain if you are OK or not as the case may be. Get help and support from friends you trust if you need to talk, contact us for help and support. You may only need a session or two to tease through the impact of what you have heard.

'Accessing counselling can really help following a sexual assault as it gives the person a safe, confidential space to talk through what has happened and deal with any unwanted thoughts and feelings. It can also provide a safe space to take time to consider any options in relation to reporting to An Garda Síochána.

Clare said that, depending on the severity of the sexual assault, returning to life as it was may take some time.

'In certain cases life may never be as it was before, but however moves forward in a different vein. Getting help and support as soon as one can is really important. Contacting professionals who can help and will increase the likelihood of getting your life back on track.

'At Wexford Rape Crisis Centre all counsellors are properly qualified and accredited and also have years of experience supporting women, men and young people to deal with sexual violence.'

A dedicated adolescent counselling service is also available, visit wexfordrapecrisis.com for more information.

Gardaí are continuing to appeal for information in relation to an incident of a serious assault that occurred on Sunday, 28 July, particularly to anyone that may have seen anything of concern between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. or those may have dash cam footage of the Burrow area in Courtown at that time.

Sgt Margo Kennedy, based in Courtown said that she would like to reassure the safety of people in Courtown.

'Crimes of this nature do happen and it's just unfortunate it has happened here. The case is still under investigation but it's of a very sensitive nature, as the injured parties are quite young and vulnerable,' she said.

An incident room remains open at Gorey Garda Station, and Gardaí can be contacted on 053 943 0690 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.

If you have been affected by any detail in this article, help and support can be accessed in Wexford Rape Crisis on free phone 1800 330033 from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or out of hours on 1800 778877, and counselling is available in Wexford town, Enniscorthy, New Ross and Gorey.

Gorey Guardian

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