Ballina Town Council elected Fianna Fáil Cllr Johnnie O’Malley as the chairperson of the Joint Policing Committee in the town at their monthly meeting on Wednesday night for a period of two years after he defeated Fine Gael Cllr Mark Winters by a vote of five to four in the council chamber, with Cllr Winters elected in the vice chair position.
The committee consists of the nine elected town councillors along with a number of local TDs, county councillors, Superintendent Frank Walsh and members from the local community.
Independent Cllr Gerry Ginty told the meeting, “There is a huge need for this, people are crying out for something to be done in the town. There are people living in fear all over the town, it is one of the major things that I found on my canvass in the town before the elections. People are afraid in their homes, if 12- and 13-year-old kids are let get away with intimidating people in their own homes then it is no surprise that we have problems later on down the line”.
Meara Mary Kelly told the members, “We are at crisis point, because I’m being inundated with calls from people all over the town who feel under threat from anti-social behaviour. I had envisioned calling a special meeting of the council in the near future to discuss the problems in the town, to bring everybody together from all different groups and forums to go through the issues.” Cllr Kelly asked Town Clerk Carmel Murphy how long would it take to get this committee together to have a meeting because there are issues which need to be addressed. Ms Murphy replied that a meeting could be convened in 14 days, but that August could be a bad month with it traditionally being a holiday month for people, but all that was needed was 14 days notice to the members to convene the meeting.
The issue of anti-social behaviour also came up under the housing report section of the meeting, Independent Cllr Gerry Ginty asked, “Is there a register of the private rented housing in the town because the way some of the housing in the town is rented out is a crime.” Fianna Fáil Cllr Willie Nolan told the meeting, “You have a number of agencies letting private houses out with public money and you see a number of good estates having the social fabric of the estates being destroyed by the people that they are putting into houses”.
Meara Mary Kelly told the meeting, “There is one elderly woman who has lived in her home all her life and then there is a group of people put into the house beside her and she is now living in terror, they have no respect for her or the other people who live there. The reality is that there are people who have been thrown out of other areas and then they come along again and say, ‘I want to live here in this place and no I don’t want a three bedroom house, I want a four bedroom house’. They come along and sign on the housing list and then get their rent allowance and are put into areas where the best of families in the town have come from and destroy the area.
“I don’t have a problem speaking out about Travellers, I have lived beside some and have friends in the community but something has to be said about this. People have saved up and got big mortgages to buy their houses and then they have these areas ruined.”
Cllr Ginty, though, did point out that Ballina is not isolated in having its problems. “I think that is very important that we point out that Ballina is not the only urban area that has these kind of problems and that it surfaces in a lot of other areas in the country.