'Anti-social behaviour is making our lives a misery'

Garda response unit the 'final straw' for angry Fountain Court residents

Stephen Fernane

A group of Tralee residents have said the sight of a Garda Response Unit dealing with anti-social behaviour in their neighbourhood is 'the final straw' as their concerns were raised at Monday's Tralee Municipal District meeting by Cllr Sam Locke.

Speaking on behalf of the Fountain Court residents, Cllr Locke voiced their frustration to council management saying they had been pushed to the brink because of a minority who are making their lives 'hell'.

Cllr Locke pleaded with management to change the vetting laws before allowing people take up residency in housing estates.

"This is demoralising the community. It's one or two individuals who can destroy a whole community. People affected by anti-social behaviour can't even sell their houses as they are worthless because of these people."

Cllr Locke added that tenancy laws need to be changed as the council's hands are tied.

"We need to change the laws so that if someone breaches the law within a week, the keys are taken back from them. In many cases these people draw on their drugs culture and get priority for houses over more deserving people," he added.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Fountain Court Residents' Association said the area consists of a small, aging community that is normally private and peaceful. It is now having to deal with serious criminal behaviour and neighbours are afraid.

"The council own these houses and the occupants are causing serious trouble. We had an armed response unit forcing an entry into two of the properties during the August Bank Holiday weekend. It's terrorising."

The spokesperson said that, prior to the August incident, there was 'a siege-like scene' when dozens of guards were called to deal with people trespassing in the residents' gardens. During June and July the guards were called on several occasions to deal with fighting on the street.

"We feel trapped in our own houses as the guards try to corral these people. They spat and abused the guards who tried to get them. When you have guards with guns on their hips on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday, there is something not right."

The residents have petitioned the Housing Department at Kerry County Council for the past 18 months to try and have the culprits removed from the houses, but to no avail.

"We have given the council documentation of all the complaints we've made to the guards. We have evidence of complaints going back 10-years on these people, but nothing is ever done about it."

The spokesperson concluded: "We have great pride in our community but we've had enough. We can't do any more with regards to ringing the guards and making complaints. We don't even know if the people have received written warnings yet from the council. We're just fed up over it, which is why we decided to go public."

Cllr Terry O'Brien insisted the council deal with the issue immediately and that the residents' rights must be protected. Cllr Norma Foley stressed that unless a zero tolerance approach is taken to anti-social behaviour, 'we're going nowhere'.

In reply, council management said dealing with tenancies is challenging due to various circumstances, but they are continuing to work with Gardaí.