Sinn Féin’s Athlone representative, Padraig Hegarty, is working with his party colleague, Cllr. Sorca Clarke, to address a number of issues that are impacting on the lives of people living in St Mary’s Place and Bower View in the town.
Speaking after engaging with local people throughout the summer, Padraig said that there is growing frustration in the area that little is being done to address the decline of what he described as a ‘tight knit working class community’.
“They are being forgotten, for years they have tried to engage with the local authorities regarding dumping, drugs and the decline of many buildings in the area that are not fit for purpose.
“The residents’ of St Mary’s Place and Bower View are putting up with illegal dumping by fly-tippers and discarded needles from drug users that are a hazard to local people, particularly local school children that have full access to the abandoned homes. These homes I have seen first hand, they are all a danger to the community.
“In addition to these problems is the high percentage of vacant, boarded up homes in a poor state of disrepair and attracting anti-social elements. They are not boarded up from the back of the homes, anyone can access them. They are structurally unsafe,” Padraig commented.
Mr. Hegarty noted that he had spoken with the local authority regarding the unsafety of these buildings in the vicinity.
“I have been in regular contact with Westmeath County Council to see what can be done to protect children from playing in the unsafe buildings all of which are located close to a number of schools. I have also engaged with the Council regarding the needles and anti-social behaviour.
“One of the most pressing issues is the scourge of fly-tipping that is blighting the area. For a short time, the council installed a camera near to their Council yard which runs parallel with the rear of the houses, this was to deter illegal dumping at Bower View, but as soon as it was taken down the dumping recommenced.
“Apart from the rubbish and the obvious health hazard this poses, discarded needles remain scattered across the area and the abandoned homes in the area remain accessible from their back gardens. Those that own these homes must take responsibility before someone is hurt and our local authority must ensure that they implement legislation which is readily available to them (Derelict Sites Act of 1990 ). They have the power to go in there and support the residents with this act,” Padraig added.
Padraig explained that when a gate was erected by the council at the back of these homes this deterred some of the anti-social elements from using the area but due to an objection it was removed and the local authority claims they cannot reinstal the gate until all the residents are in agreement.
“It is wrong that a small minority of people are allowed to cause so many problems. The residents’ of St Marys Place and Bower View, the vast majority of whom are very decent people, are enduring antisocial behaviour which is often drugs related and many local residents are understandably worried about their safety. Cllr. Clarke and I will continue to lobby the council and other statutory agencies to get these matters are addressed as it is unacceptable that the people of St Mary’s and Bower View are forced to endure such difficulties on their doorsteps,” Padraig concluded.