Local residents reacted with alarm this week after news filtered through the town that a convicted paedophile had moved into a property on Northgate Street.
Patrick Naughton was jailed in 2002 for raping his daughter for a period of six years beginning from 1987, at a time when she was nine years of age.
Independent Deputy for Longford-Westmeath, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, was contacted and met with concerned residents on the issue on Monday this week.
A small crowd descended on the rented apartment on Monday evening (January 2 ) in an effort to ask Mr Naughton to leave the locality. When that failed, close to 50 people gathered on Tuesday morning in a bid to force the issue. By Tuesday evening the convicted sex offender had packed up his belongings and vacated the area of his own accord.
This is not the first time that Mr Naughton has been asked to move since his release in 2014. In June of last year he vacated a residence in Salthill, Galway, after locals learned of his presence in the area.
Mayor of Athlone, John Dolan, said the situation has thrown up several talking points: “In fairness to auctioneers and landlords, it should be made far easier for them to perform background checks on people looking for accommodation from them,” he said.
“There is, of course, an argument that says everybody deserves a second chance to get on with their lives, but in terms of the type of crime this individual was associated with, I don’t think too many of us would be willing to welcome him as a neighbour.”
Deputy Moran praised the manner in which local residents approached the issue. “The protest people put on was very diplomatic, and credit to them for that,” he said. “I think the man knew himself that with the level of the protest he would have to move on, and he did.”
Deputy Moran also commended the actions of Gardaí, but suggested it could be time to look at the rights of people to be informed when a sex offender moves into their locality.
“In fairness to the Gardaí, they were monitoring the situation and were fully aware that the man was there,” he said. “The Guards did their job to the maximum of their remit.
“Do we need to look at introducing legislation so that if someone like that comes into an area people be notified? I think we should, and it is something I will be raising with the relevant ministers.
“The man is gone now. But the question remains, when these people run out of spaces, where do they go? I think that is something that needs to be looked at moving forward.”