Anti-social behaviour is one of the main reasons for a high turnover of houses in St Patrick’s Estate in Ballina.
A recent Mayo Joint-Policing Committee meeting heard a presentation from Cluid, the housing agency who are responsible for 60 housing units in the estate, known locally as Parkside.
Cluid’s Regional Housing Manager Marcella Flanagan and Ben Williams, a housing officer for Cluid who is based in Mayo and has responsibility for St Patrick’s Estate, both spoke at the meeting.
Mr Williams told the meeting that there has been complaints about drug dealing and assaults in the estate and that anti-social behaviour is cited as one of the main reasons for the high turnover of families from the estate.
He said, as a consequence, there is ‘low demand for the Parkside area’. Mr Williams outlined many problems the area faces. He said there are ‘not many amenities in the vicinity of the estate’ and that while there was a space allocated for a community centre, this fell down as the local community could not organise itself in order to draw down funding.
He said Cluid are hoping to initiate plans for a community centre again but went on to say ‘it is difficult to develop a community’ in the Parkside.
“There is a community association there but there are concerns about how representative it is of the community. We have tried to address this but our efforts were met with a mixture of apathy and suspicion,” he said.
Mr Williams says he visits the estate on a weekly basis and is working on ‘building partnerships’ with the community, gardaí, Cluid and other stakeholders.
He said that after ‘significant disturbances’ on the estate in May 2015, he met with Superintendent Joe Doherty of Ballina Garda Station and established ‘clear lines of communication with gardaí’.
“Things are improving. The aim is to build trust between Cluid and the community and between gardaí and the community,” he said.
However, he says there is a reluctance among locals to make criminal complaints against people in the estate.
“Often statements made are later withdrawn due to a mixture of intimidation and pressure,” he said. Willie Nolan, a member of the JPC and a former town councillor, said he is long aware of the problems in St Patrick’s Estate and that ‘over 60 percent of the houses there are boarded up’.
“There is a plethora of problems there but a lot of the problems can be overcome if co-operation and communication between all sides improves,” he said.
Chief Superintendent Pat Diskin said a new model of community engagement being employed by gardaí in Ballina can help address some of the issues in St Patrick’s Estate.
“You can achieve so much with regard to anti-social behaviour and drug issues if there is meaningful dialogue between the various parties,” he said.
Cluid in Mayo
Marcella Flanagan told the meeting that Cluid have 150 houses in Mayo. Of these, 29 are in Castlebar, 15 in Claremorris, two in Swinford, seven in Westport, 16 in Foxford with a total of 81 in Ballina.
There were some anti-social behaviour issues in Lios na Circe, Saleen, Castlebar, where Cluid have 20 units, but nowhere near as pronounced as in St Patrick’s Estate in Ballina.
There is good demand for Lios na Circe, Mr Williams said.
Mr Williams told the meeting that Cluid acquired their St Patrick’s Estate stock from Ballina Town Council in 2006 and that it was part of a €13.1 million regeneration project which finished in 2012.
He said 50 percent of rents carry arrears but ‘the majority of these are trying to address their arrears’.
Ms Flanagan said Cluid can take action against a Cluid resident who commits a criminal offence.
She said it is ‘always the minority that cause issues’ but said that whenever they ‘take people to task, it is not appreciated’. She said Cluid need to take action if a resident is causing a problem but added ‘we do not remove someone from a house lightly’.