Extra Garda resources are “urgently needed” to deal with groups of youths responsible for disorder in West Limerick towns and villages, the chairman of a Limerick joint policing committee has said, after Newcastle West witnessed “the worst sort of vandalism imaginable” on Halloween night.
Fine Gael councillor Adam Teskey said the “frightening” scenes were akin to “Beirut”.
Violent scenes in the town were filmed and shared across social media, with one video showing a man who appeared to be firing fireworks from a gun – believed to be a repeater rifle – in the town.
Gangs of youths were also filmed roaming through the streets and throwing wheelie bins and other missiles at cars.
Another violent scene captured on mobile phone video footage showed a group of people tipping over a car parked on a street in the town.
“It was like a scene from Beirut, it was frightening stuff,” said Mr Teskey. “They caught a car below by the river and threw it up on its side, and then they were (throwing) public bins and throwing them at windscreens of cars, anything they could find they were throwing at cars.”
“What has come to the surface in our county towns and villages is absolutely nothing but the worst sort of vandalism imaginable.”
“This is the sort of stuff you would watch on the news in other countries. I might have to call a special meeting of the joint policing committee because of the way things are going.”
Mr Teskey said that there were not enough Garda resources in West Limerick to effectively deal with gangs of youths who have been causing mayhem in local towns and villages including Newcastle West and Askeaton.
“People feel completely let down, that this act of criminal behaviour seems to be manifesting into society in a huge way and it seems the systems that are in place currently to deal with juveniles is letting us down – the Garda JLO (Juvenile Liaisons Officer) system whereby people under the age of 18 are referred – and it needs to be overhauled,” he said.
“It is something that I have brought up in person to [Minister for Justice] Helen McEntee when she was in our area recently. I told her that we have a huge problem with juveniles in terms of how we police them and that the system is failing them and is failing us.”
Cllr Teskey said that people living in Newcastle West and other parts of the county are “sick of it” and are demanding change.
He said he believed Garda resources were stretched on Halloween night as officers from the area were dispatched to investigate a fatal road traffic collision in which a young local mother was killed and two young children and two males in their 30s and 20s were hospitalised for non-life threatening conditions.
Cllr Teskey said one possible way to mitigate the problem of out-of-control youths was to hit their parents in their pockets.
“If these individuals are found to have being involved in any unlawful activity in our towns and villages, their parents should be fined because of this hooliganism and blackguarding.”
“Their parents should know what their children are doing, where they at night, and they should also be held responsible, as they play a huge part in this.”
When asked for comment, a Gard spokesman replied: “Gardaí are investigating an incident of criminal damage where a car was damaged on October 31st 2022 at 7.35pm in Newcastle West, Co Limerick. No arrests have been made. Investigations are ongoing.”
The spokesman added: “Gardaí attended an incident where a group of youths were reportedly setting off fireworks in the Square, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick at 6.40pm” but that “the group was gone on the arrival of Gardaí, and no arrests have been made [and] investigations are ongoing”.
“Gardaí were called to attend an incident on Maiden Street, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick at 7.20pm where a group of youths was reportedly letting off fireworks. They were gone on arrival, investigations are ongoing,” he added.