Targets of thugs are afraid of reprisals if they report attacks to gardai

Youths enjoying the sunny weather in Salthill are being targeted by a gang of thugs, with one boy requiring medical attention after he was beaten up and his front teeth broken, members of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee (JPC ) were told this week.

It was while discussing assault figures contained in the Garda report at Monday’s meeting of the JPC that Sinn Fein senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh raised the issue of recent thuggish behaviour against youths, with Salthill being exceptionally busy. He told the committee: “I have been made aware that in Salthill a gang of thugs are going around attacking youths and taking their mobile phones off them. I know of one youth whose front teeth have been broken”.

The senator further explained how a parent of this victim had contacted him complaining that her son’s teeth were badly damaged, and the dentists has reported numberous cases like this. A local GP has also confirmed incidents of injuries following assaults. However, senator Ó Clochartaigh added that the attackers are not being apprehended as “these young people are too afraid to report this to gardai because of the fear of reprisal”.

Labour city councillor Níall McNelis also said that he was aware of a “handful of individuals” who were causing trouble in Salthill. However, he stressed that he didn’t want the message to go out that Salthill is not safe and urged the five local councillors to meet with the local Garda Superintendent to discuss this very serious situation.

Referring to an incident on Ballyloughane Beach in Renmore last week, Independent city councillor Terry O’Flaherty explained how she had to call the gardai after a “group of hooligans” were causing trouble during the fine weather, throwing bottles, and roaring and shouting. Said that although no arrests were made, drink was confiscated and the presence of a Garda patrol car in the area did make an impact.

“This yobbish behaviour is uncalled for,” said Cllr O’Flaherty, who called for uniformed gardai to be more patrolling of these areas as it does act as a deterrent.

Chairman of the JPC and Galway city mayor Pádraig Conneely (FG ) then spoke of his concern that “talk of thugs” could adversely affect Salthill which has, since the fine weather began, returned to the older days with thousands thronging the area. Cllr Conneely said: “I think some representatives are over egging this a little. I was aware of an incident but it’s better to discuss it privately with the superindendent and chief superintendent. The gardai are there to deal with the incident. It’s not appropriate to raise this in public, and put people off going to the area.” This opinion was backed by Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind ) who said it is sometimes better to deal with such situations privately instead of representatives looking for publicity.

In response, senator Ó Clochartaigh said he “took issue” with the mayor’s comments adding that he has highlight similar incident which took place in other areas of the city. He said: “It’s out of order to gag members of the committee just because it is Salthill. The great issue here is that gardai can’t get cooperation from the people who are afraid to report because of fear of reprisals.”

Referring to a meeting with Salthill residents he attended more than six months ago, Fine Gael councillor Frank Fahy said that he had been “taken aback with what they had to put up with”. “I take umbridge with pushing this under the carpet. I know of one resident who has been targeted just for being a non-Irish national. A lady’s car was walked on because she made a complaint. I’m horrified this is happening, it has to be investigated,” said Cllr Fahy.

Chief superintendent Tom Curley then assured committee members that the gardai are very proactive in their investigations of these incidents and are taking the necessary steps.

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