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‘People are petrified’

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INTIMIDATION Downtown Castlebar, where a roaming gang of youths is intimidating locals and shoppers, according to a local counsellor. Pic: Creative Commons/Eirambler

Edwin McGreal

People are afraid to walk down the Main Street in Castlebar due to ongoing anti-social behaviour. That’s according to local Cllr Michael Kilcoyne, who was speaking yesterday (Monday) at a Mayo County Council meeting – less than a week after local gardaí also highlighted the issue in the local District Court.
“People are being intimidated by certain individuals who roam the streets. These individuals go down town and people are in fear. The businesspeople in Castlebar are extremely concerned too,” said Cllr Kilcoyne.
Speaking to The Mayo News after the meeting, Cllr Kilcoyne said the problem was ‘getting worse all the time’.  
“Downtown in Castlebar there’s a gang of young fellas – and some women too – doing what they like and getting away with it.
“In the main there’s around five or six lads who are intimidating a lot of people. They will see an elderly person on the street and cross over to intimidate them. The elderly person has to walk out on the road to get around them.
“They go into shops and they spread out, men and women, to cause as much disruption [as possible], to make life impossible for staff,” said Cllr Kilcoyne.
The councillor said he has received several representations from locals and that he has asked for the first Joint-Policing Committee (JPC) meeting of the new council term to take place as soon as possible. JPC meetings are a forum for councillors and other community representatives to discuss policing matters with garda chiefs in the county.
“Ordinary people are petrified. I’ve met plenty of people who are afraid to go up the town. It’s terrible.
“We need to discuss this at the JPC. It’s the forum for it. We need to find out if Garda resources are the issue. If there are not enough gardaí, then we need to demand more. If resources are not the issue, then we need to ask why are more gardaí not being sent down the town to deal with this. If this requires an old-style approach to policing with a garda on every corner, then so be it.
“The gardaí on the ground are doing the best they can, but they could be dealing with some troublemakers at one end of the town and another incident flares up at the other end of the town,” he said.
During a bail hearing last Wednesday for two men facing charges over an alleged disturbance in Castlebar the previous afternoon (see News, page 8), two local gardaí spoke of ongoing issues with anti-social behaviour.
Garda Olive Lafferty told Judge Fiona Lydon that anti-social behaviour is a ‘massive problem’ in Castlebar, affecting businesses in the town centre on a ‘daily basis’. Garda Michael Toland told the court that anti-social behaviour is a ‘huge problem’ for businesses in the town.
Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, Mayo County Council Chief Executive Peter Hynes said that convening a JPC was a priority but that all members of the new JPC have yet to be elected. He said the likely date for the next JPC meeting was September.