RESIDENTS in a Graiguecullen housing estate are being terrorised by ‘neighbours from hell’, with reports of children and parents being assaulted, adults fighting in public with machetes and stones being fired at motorists by slingshots.
Trouble has been brewing at Heather Hill Square in Graiguecullen for some time now and residents are sick of it.
“Our children don’t play on the street any more because they’re afraid of getting hurt. Before this, the kids always played outside, but this whole summer, the children wouldn’t play outside,” one resident told The Nationalist. She said she did not want to be named, fearing possible repercussions.
There were accounts of a five-year-old girl being “body-slammed into a car” by an older boy aged 12. Another resident got hit with a stone in the face from a slingshot because he refused to buy alcohol for some teenagers, and in another incident residents were horrified to see two men fighting each other with machetes on the public green area. It’s believed that the trouble started about a year ago and is centred around the behaviour of one family.
“It’s so shocking, it can’t be tolerated any more,” said the resident, who is at the end of her tether. She added that the residents were too terrified to report the violence and anti-social behaviour to the gardaí for fear of retaliation, but Laois councillor Aisling Moran wants the council to tackle the issue directly.
She visited the estate last week ahead of a local Graiguecullen-Portarlington Municipal District meeting, where she raised the issue of Heather Hill Square.
“I called into the estate and it’s like a ghost town there. There’s no-one out and about; the children are too afraid to go out. This estate was gorgeous, but problematic behaviour seeps through a community. We need to take action on this and we need to be firm about it,” said cllr Moran.
At last week’s meeting of Graiguecullen-Portarlington Municipal District, she called on the council to introduce a three-strike rule whereby if a family member misbehaves then they would be evicted and struck off the housing list. She said: “If they start on about their children having nowhere to go, tell them that if you cared about your children, you wouldn’t have done this.”
She also asked for more bollards to be erected on the roadway between Heather Hill Square and Heather Hill, as the culprits have evaded garda chases by driving around the only bollard on the road.
Cllr Pádraig Fleming agreed that there are “massive and serious issues” at Heather Hill Square, where about half the 36 properties are council houses and the other half are privately owned. He said: “A family has moved in and the reality now is that a lot of people are very distressed. Some of the younger ones are knocking on doors asking people to buy beer for them. There have been major threats. It’s a shocking problem. People are very upset and terrorised.”
Cllr Fleming said a minimum of 30 families, if not nearly all 36, are “stressed out” because of illegal activities in the estate, such as assaults, intimidation and lighting of fires. He said: “It is terrible that a family can move in and totally destroy the balance, the niceness and the safety that was there.”
Laois area engineer Philip McVeigh confirmed that more bollards would be erected on the roadway between Heather Hill Square and Heather Hill to deter anti-social behaviour and prevent evasion from the gardaí.
A spokesman for Carlow gardaí told The Nationalist that no formal complaints had been made in relation to any of the issues highlighted in this article.