THREATS made by knife wielding children are among the litany of issues which continue to plague a local sports facility. Concern is mounting over the level of anti-social behaviour and criminal damage taking place at the Williamstown Sports Complex. Raising the issue at the January Metropolitan District meeting of Waterford City & County Council last week, Cllr Adam Wyse (FF) said problems have been ongoing for a number of years.
He outlined a string of incidents which have occurred including fences being cut; rubbish dumped; fires started; gates pulled off hinges; horses brought onto pitches; threats made by knife wielding children younger than 14; blocks thrown at teams; intimidation of coaches; and other damage to property.
Cllr Wyse, who is Chairman of Red Star FC which uses the complex, said there are “huge problems” which haven’t been addressed.“For three or four years we were told it would be looked at. Pretty much nothing has been done about it by anybody,” he said.He said around 400 people use the complex every week, consisting of many volunteers and various different age groups.Cllr Wyse pointed out that people living “in the vicinity” of the Williamstown Road must be held accountable for their actions. “If you or me dumped or started a fire in our back gardens we would be fined or brought to court by this Council or Gardaí. Yet we allow certain people to completely get away with it – and we all know who I’m talking about.”
He added: “It’s almost gone to the stage where everyone thinks Gardaí and Councillors are frightened of their lives of tackling this issue.” He put a number of questions to the Council and called for immediate action.
“What can the Council do? Can we issue fines? Can we bring these people to court? Can these people be moved on? The Council needs to be put to task here,” he said.“What are you going to do to try to stop this problem for the people that are using the complex?” In response, Senior Executive Officer (SEO), Economic Development, Billy Duggan, pointed out that the issues which were raised fall under the Council’s Community division.
As nobody from that section was present to answer, he said he would report the issues and seek a response.
However, Metropolitan Mayor Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) highlighted that Cllr Wyse had raised very serious queries.
“Whatever answer comes back needs to come back quickly,” he said.
“What’s going on, as Cllr Wyse has outlined, is completely unacceptable. I would emphasise a certainty priority to Cllr Wyse’s questions. Unfortunately nobody is here to answer but that’s not good enough either.” Cllr Matt Shanahan (Ind) also lent his support, saying he knows the area in question very well. He noted that horses are currently allowed to graze on Council owned lands in this area and suggested that ceasing this arrangement may be the most effective way of getting people to change their behaviour. Cllr Wyse added that he was also seeking clarity on the large fire which occurred in the area last year.
There have been a number of fires around the complex in recent times, including a large gorse fire last July.
At the time, Cllr Wyse described this fire as “an attack” on the people of the area. “I’ve been told the Council knows who caused it and have proof of who caused it,” he said, adding that he believes information on the incident has been passed onto the Council. Cllr Wyse asked if it was correct that nobody had been reprimanded as a result of the incident and that no fines had been imposed.He also asked if he was correct in saying Waterford City & County Council had constructed a fire pit for people in the area to use instead. Mayor Joe Kelly again added his support, stressing that such issues “need to be dealt with”. District Manager Fergus Galvin said he was not aware of Cllr Wyse’s claims and could not confirm if a fire pit had been constructed by the Council.
However, an assurance was given to look into the issues which were raised.
Meanwhile, Cllr John Hearne (SF) also expressed support for the issues which had been raised.
He said the most appropriate place for raising these queries was at the Council’s Joint Policing Committing (JPC) meetings but expressed concerns at how Councillors are being constrained from asking questions at such meetings.