GAA club’s plea to min­is­ter as bru­tal crime gangs lure teenage play­ers into deal­ing drugs

Irish Daily Mirror - - STATESIDE - BY TREVOR QUINN

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

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