Unholy uproar at drinking on streets

Garda boss vows to tackle anti-social behaviour on the town’s main street as councillors say they have received numerous complaints from the public. Hubert Murphy reports on a growing epidemic

The residents of Drogheda are fed up with people using the town’s main street as a public toilet – and want action taken.

That was the overwhelming view of councillors addressing last week’s Joint Policing Committee meeting at Millmount, with Cllr Paul Bell saying he had received a number of complaints about individuals urinating on the steps of St Peter’s Church and outside the Tholsel.

‘We have to get the alcohol bye-laws enforced,’ he stated. ‘These people seem to be unchallenged, yet we have CCTV in the garda station. This is blatant – in broad daylight – it’s the same groups in the same locations and is becoming a growing feature on the town’s main street.’

Cllr David Saurin agreed, saying this was confined to the side streets but was now on the main street.

‘People have trays of cans under the benches and people walking by feel intimidated.

‘There is a also a problem at the Highlanes steps.’

Chairman of the Joint Policing body, Kenneth Flood said that the byelaws should be enforced.

‘There is a big influx of other people to the town and they are not engaging with the services. We only have one outreach worker to deal with this and a commitment from 2017 was not followed through. We need more outreach workers to deal with this.’

He also confirmed that there had been three attacks on people sleeping rough by gangs of teenagers.

Cllr Richie Culhane explained that he had spoken with a hotel owner who said that a group of Canadian visitors had returned to the hotel as they were worried being on the streets.

‘People were sitting on St Peter’s steps, lighting up a joint and drinking. I called a sergeant in the garda station and he went down. I would thank Donal McGivern for that.

‘We have a lot of migrant visitors to the town and there is an issue with anti-social behaviour on the main street.’

Cllr Pio Smith felt that gardai were doing their best with the resources they had but there was also a mental health issue associated with some cases and that is where the government had been lacking in supports.

Supt Andrew Watters said he could not deny there was a problem, but the incidents were not going unchallenged.

He said he had spotted one man with a box full of cider on the street and he was arrested and the drink taken off him.

The groups are often aggressive and at one stage last week, a garda nearly had to draw his baton as the situation escalated.

‘This type of thing is not just in Drogheda. There has been a general increase in public order offences in the northern part of the country.

‘I won’t tolerate this behaviour but we are looking at resources.

‘Another major investigation has been taking place and we are dealing with that too.’

He said one man was arrested on the street and brought before the courts. He was granted bail and was back in court shortly afterwards.

‘With the Fleadh coming we want to get to grips with this. I want guards on the beat on West Street and when the patrol car is free – and that’s not often – it will be parked up on West Street.

‘We’ll do our best to eradicate this,’ he advised the members.

GARDAI are trying to put strategies in place to tackle the increase in assaults, criminal damage and public order offences in Drogheda.

Supt Andrew Watters revealed figures that saw assaults up by 19% for the first six months of this year compared to 2017.

Criminal damage was also up by 17% while there were 122 public order offences, compared to 100 last year, an increase of 22%.

He said they had gone through the figures and found that the main problem period where most incidents took place was between the hours of midnight and 5am on Saturday/Sunday.

Cllr Pio Smith, a great advocate of the Purple Flag idea, said the proposal had stalled when it comes to introducing it in Drogheda, but one feature in it is how we manage the economy between 12-5am.

‘Can businesses help to sort this out. What about staggered opening times,’ he suggested.

Supt Watters said the gardai work with the vintners group and while people say the incidents occur because too much drink was served, that is not necessarily the case.

‘People drink at home and then go out and they meet up at flashpoints and certain locations. There are different finishing times for niteclubs.

‘We will have four new gardai in the next few weeks,’ he added.

Overall, he said he would love to get 25 extra gardai to be split across the garda shifts, but every other division was looking for the same thing.

‘The thing is, we have Dundalk and Drogheda, the two biggest towns in Ireland, in the same and smallest county.’

Drogheda Independent