By Paul Walsh
The community of Dunboyne saw their public amenities under attack again from vandals, as a tree in the local park was set on fire on Halloween.
Local Cllr Noel Leonard described what happened, "On Halloween night I got a call from a very distressed neighbour of the park at around 9.00pm and they said there was a gang in the park trying to set the trees on fire. So I rang the guards and we got a very very quick response, about eight guards came," he said.
"What the gang had done was stolen a wheelie bin from somewhere else and put the wheelie bin filled with accelerant against one of the trees that is 300 years old and proceeded to set it on fire. There is considerable damage done to the tree but hopefully it will recover. The fire went right into the tree. It took several fire extinguisher canisters to get it out. These are the fire extinguishers the guards would have in their wagons. We didn't call the fire brigade because it was Halloween and they were up to their neck, but the guards did their best to get it out."
This follows another recent incident in the park, which saw the state-of-the art skateboard park burned and destroyed, just one day after being reopened following a previous arson attack last May.
Cllr Maria Murphy is now concerned about whether the council will be in the position to repair the skateboard park, given the council's limited resources. "At a local meeting we were told that it will cost Ä18,000 to fix it, but the council don't have the money at the moment."
Even if the council had the resources to complete the work, Cllr Murphy feels that the issue of young people congregating in the park and drinking must be dealt with first. "We are looking at the possibility of putting in by-laws to stop drinking in public areas. That will probably come first, some sort of preventative measures. CCTV is a lot of money for equipment. However, the by-laws will be dependant on the Gardai's to follow it up", she said.
Cllr Leonard agrees on the need for preventative measures to be put in place to protect the park and its amenities. "There is no point spending money putting back this ramp until we have it more secure. So, what I will be calling for is a gate on the park entrance", he said. "Now, there is a gate at one end of the park, but I will be looking for funding for a gate at the main entrance of the park."
Cllr Leonard also supports the proposed introduction of by-laws banning drinking in public places and it's his belief that this would have the support of the local guards. "I did make a proposal on this at our local area meeting and it certainly will be on the agenda for the main council meeting," he said.
"At the moment the guards can go out but unless it's a public order offence, so that they are shouting, roaring, fighting or wrecking the place, they cannot take the drink off them. So, the by-laws are the answer," he said. "I have got calls from members of the force in Dunboyne, saying Noel why don't you try and get these by-laws in place, because we know who they are and we can see them openly drinking. But, they can just give us the two fingers and we can do nothing about it."
Cllr Leonard concluded by making the point that not all young people in Dunboyne should be tarred with the same brush. "99% of the youths in Dunboyne are absolutely wonderful people, but there is a small element that are determined to bring any little facilities we have down."
Anyone with information in can contact Dunboyne Garda station at (01) 825 2211.