A councillor has branded the council’s rental scheme as a “disgrace” on account of the amount of intimidation and anti-social behaviour perpetrated by those within the system.
She has also called for more evictions, and a review of the rules governing acceptance of applicants.
“How do they get a tenancy with Westmeath County Council? How do they get Garda vetting? It’s a disgrace...We have a moral obligation to these people [the victimised neighbours] if they’re paying their mortgages,” said Cllr Gabrielle McFadden.
She brought up the sensitive issue at the most recent meeting of the Athlone Area committee after she had been made aware of a named family in Athlone who was being terrorised by such neighbours.
She was supported in this opinion by Cllr Jim Henson who felt that this was “a huge issue with the Athlone Town Council”.
“Every member has a duty to these people who are living in fear. The dogs in the street know who’s doing this. We must be able to arm our Housing Department,” he added.
“Metaphorically,” corrected Cllr Mark Cooney, who was chairing the meeting.
Cllr John Dolan put his finger straight on the crux of the problem.
Chairman Cooney attempted to lower the temperature by pointing out that there is a procedure available for the council to take action with disruptive tenants, and that there is “a provision in law where the victims do not have to go into court or give evidence”.
He also added that this provision also allowed for the Housing Officer or similar staff member to give in camera, or secret, evidence to a judge about the levels of intimidation and anti-social behaviour involved.
“The councils have very stringent policies, adopted since 2010, and get very good co-operation with the Gardaí and other agencies,” Cllr Cooney pointed out.
However, Cllr McFadden still wasn’t satisfied.
“There’s no point having a comprehensive policy on paper if we’re not going to use it. Why are we not evicting people? Putting them out? Why should we as a council put up with this any more?”