A Dundalk couple claim they now fear for their lives as anti-social behaviour from drug taking gangs escalates in an alleyway beside their house. Last Thursday evening Francis Lee, his wife Sue and daughter Shauna were sleeping when two bins were set alight in an alleyway on Peter Street (just off Quay St,) which caused gas cables running to a gas metre box to melt as well as tv cables to their house.
Thankfully the fire didn’t spread to the gas metre box but this is just one of a number of incidents over the last number of years which has tormented residents living on Peter Street who have described the situation as a ‘living hell’. 68-year old Francis suffers from ill health with only 25% of his heart working. He is unable to climb the stairs in his house so each night he sleeps on the sofa in the sitting-room. Almost every night he hears the gangs congregate in the alleyway right next to his house where they use drugs often leaving tin foil and syringes behind them. According to Francis it has got to the stage where he is fearing for his life with Thursdays near miss just the latest in a long line of incidents in the alleyway.
“My wife Sue had gone up to bed and I was settling down to sleep on the sofa when I heard the familiar sounds of a group of people in the alleyway talking and shouting to each other. I can hear them very clearly through the vents in my sitting-room wall and often smoke comes in through the vents when there’s a gang of them out there. On Thursday night I was trying to get to sleep when I heard a commotion outside and then saw the lights of the fire brigade stop at the alleyway,” explained Francis.
“They had burned the butchers bins and the fire had burnt out my side wall burning my gas lines and tv cables. I am just relieved that the gas metre box didn’t catch fire as God knows what damage that would have caused,” he added.
“These people are here every single night and we are afraid to leave our houses in the evening time. We have asked the council to help us and look into putting up a gate to prevent entrance into the alleyway but we feel we are being ignored. I moved here fourteen years ago and the first four or five years were fine but with everything going on in the alleyway and Ard Dealgan behind us it has been a living hell for most of the last decade now” stated Francis.
Francis neighbour John O’Connell echoed those sentiments saying he had called the gardaí and local authorities on numerous occasions looking for help.
“I don’t like giving out but unfortunately we all feel that we are being ignored down here. Recently I found a guy in the alleyway unconscious with a needle sticking out of his arm. Every day there are needles left in the alleyway and nobody seems to give a crap. There are kids on this street and this is simply not a safe environment for them. We are sick to the back teeth of asking for help and being ignored and it seems as if it is going to take something really terrible to happen to one of us as almost happened last night with Francis before anybody will do something for us,” stated John.
The Peter Street residents have been dealing with these issues for many years now with the well documented anti-social behaviour inside the Ard Dealgan complex which was abandoned in 2009 following health and safety concerns. The building which is directly behind the houses on Peter St. has been a magnet for anti-social activity in the form of drug dealing and late night parties. That building has been taken over by Louth County Council and builders are currently working on the new ‘Halliday’s Mills’ project which will provide 85 new social housing units by the end of next month.
According to Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick once this building work has been completed there is no reason why a gate cannot be put up to keep gangs out of the alleyway.
“I am aware of the many problems residents in Peter St. and the surrounding areas have had to face because of anti-social behaviour in the area and I am hopeful that once the building in Halliday’s Mils has been completed that we can erect a gate with each resident being given a key for access. I know the council have given priority to this area and I can see no reason why we can’t stop these gangs making the lives of residents hell by stopping them getting into the alleyway where they congregate,” stated Peter.
However, according to Sinn Fein councillor Kevin Meenan there may be a problem putting up a gate due to lack of access for fire engines and emergency services. Cllr. Meenan visited the scene of the incident on Sunday. He said he had been speaking to neighbours about issues in Peter Street and he acknowledged there are problems with rubbish dumping and people congregating in the alleyway. He said he understood that restricting access to the alleyway would not be possible as the fire service needs access down the alleyway for emergencies.
“I have made the council aware of the incident and we are working to try to find a resolution for this family. It is my intention to raise it formally at the Dundalk Town Council meeting next week,” stated the Sinn Fein councillor.