A slew of anti-social incidents in recent days in Ballyheigue, culminating in a fire in a green area there at the weekend, has led to the formation of a new community group with the sole aim of restoring peace to the seaside village.
allyheigue Community Alert was established in the aftermath of the incidents this past week, including at least one physical altercation, a number of public-order disturbances as well as a public emergency on Friday night when locals had to frantically douse a fire on the Dolly’s Green area of the village.
‘Enough is enough’ is the message from the new group who called a public meeting in the Community Centre over the issue on Tuesday night, at which it was expected gardaí would attend.
Community Alert spokesperson and Ballyheigue GAA PRO Risteárd Ó Fuaráin said the sole aim of the group is for an end to the public disorder.
“We’re sick of a small group making life hell for people here, but we’re heartened by the response to the issue on social media since the weekend. People are very concerned about all that has been going on and we simply want to help the gardaí bring an end to the anti-social problems here as soon as possible.”
Mr Ó Fuaráin himself spoke calmly with what he said was the same group of youths on a number of occasions who he claimed were ‘acting the maggot’ in housing estates and on the sand dunes – where another fire spiralled out of control on Sunday.
“You would always have a few lads acting the maggot, but last year we started getting lads going around on bikes throwing eggs at windows. This year it all started in the GAA pitch which had been closed due to the COVID restrictions.
“There were lads going in congregating there, acting the maggot then going up the village and making a nuisance of themselves, culminating in a local youngster getting a few slaps on Friday night after he was grabbed by them.
“I happened to know a few of the lads there, all visitors, and went down to ask them what was going on. It was then we looked over to Dolly’s Green to see it on fire,” Mr Ó Fuaráin explained.
It’s believed that a stash of waste cardboard waiting collection outside a local outlet had been dragged onto the Green where it was set alight, quickly blazing out of control. Risteárd and fellow group members along with local residents launched an ad hoc response, securing a water supply through a garden hose to douse it before it could engulf a park bench adjacent.
Again on Saturday night, Risteárd and fellow group members had to confront a group congregating in a housing estate where residents were concerned over their presence. “They got quite aggressive when we asked them what they were doing. Then Sunday night someone started a fire in the dunes, they were trying to start a proper fire but it got out of control but again got quite aggressive when we arrived telling us to ‘f*** off’, one of a couple of incidents on Sunday night that also saw a local lad getting aggro from them, they were very fired up.”
The Community Alert members say they spoke calmly with the youths on each occasion, defusing the tension and ultimately managing to move them off. But the incidents just keep coming.
“We are very grateful to the gardaí who have really stepped up their patrols of the village, which is making a big difference. But we feel the need to bring representatives of all sections of the community together at the meeting now to make sure the message goes out clearly that this is not acceptable, that we are sick of a small group making life hell for everyone in the village. We have found in the past that when incidents are confronted publicly like this they tend to stop and the establishment of the group is as much about the future summer seasons as it is about this one. All we want to do is go back to eating our 99s in peace,” Mr Ó Fuaráin added.
It was expected the community would be widely represented at the meeting, from caravan park owners to publicans, local businesses, residents and the gardaí. Mr Ó Fuaráin said one welcome outcome of the events has been in the level of vigilance locally over suspicious activity, which he said was best illustrated by locals tracking a ‘suspicious’ vehicle with the use of WhatsApp group texting along a route it took into the area from Listowel, through Ballyduff and Causeway.