GAA club’s plea to minister as brutal crime gangs lure teenage players into dealing drugs
A COMMUNITY has pleaded for “immediate action” to tackle a crack cocaine epidemic threatening to ravage its youth.
Setanta GAA club revealed teenagers have been lured away by the influence of alcohol, drugs and gangs and the situation has reached crisis point.
Children as young as 13 are being groomed by criminal groups in Ballymun, North Dublin, to become dealers.
Setanta chairperson Eilis N Chearnaigh appeared on The Late Late Show last night and spoke about the crisis.
The club also sent a letter to Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne outlining what needs to be done to protect young people. But despite meeting the minister last month, Setanta secretary Liam O’brien said: “It’s crazy out here, it’s absolutely crazy. Local people are frightened. Things haven’t got any better. We feel there is an action plan needed for the area. “Since we met Catherine Byrne on October 4, Ballymun has been in the media for the wrong reasons.”
Last month father-of-two Robbie Sheridan, 45, who had been told his life was under threat, was shot dead by two masked assassins at his house in Poppintree Crescent.
Detectives believe he fell foul of a local drugs gang. And one week ago, a 15-year-old was involved in a row with another teenage boy in Balcurris Gardens. He was left with cuts to his face after being slashed with a knife. Mr O’brien said the club has amalgamated its minor team with Craobh Chiarain GAA club, which has kept younger players away from threats.
But he revealed the scenario facing many is they need to move away from the area to ensure they do not get caught up in criminality and drugs.
He added: “We’ve only a few [minors] here that are hurling. There’s one young fella who is only 18, who works in an office, who left the club recently after eight years.
“He told me, ‘I had to get out of Ballymun, I had to get out and move down the country. They’re all dabbling in drugs and I can’t be having that.
“‘My head is wrecked with them. I just had to move away from the area because I have a feeling it might just suck me in and if it sucks me in, I’ll never get out’.
“He’s a very talented player and has played with us since he was 10 years of age. He’ll be badly missed, it’s a real shame. He feels he has no choice but hopefully some day he will play again for us.”
Since meeting Mrs Byrne, Setanta GAA have “put a plan together” with the Local Drug Task Force, community youth projects, drug addiction services and other sports groups.
The Fine Gael junior minister is set to visit Ballymun again soon.
In a letter to her on Thursday, Mr O’brien called for community policing to be restored, for the five-year local area plan to be delivered on time and for the establishment of an “engaging youth encounter project” to help young people.
The letter also stated the community was living “in fear and turmoil of what lies ahead”. The club has invited “ministers and an Taoiseach” to the area.
Ballymun has a 25% unemployment rate – 20% higher than the national average. This does not include lone parents or people with disabilities.
MEETING Catherine Byrne