A number of local authority tenant families were making life “a living nightmare” in a housing estate in Gort as the Gardaí and council officials sat idly by, it was claimed.
Cllr Gerry Finnerty (FF) said he has been plagued by complaints about the estate on Crowe Street, centring on antisocial behaviour, horses being kept in and outside houses and dumping.
“I believe the cameras are not at all times working. I had one resident who was told by another resident she’d be removed from the estate. She’s a mother with three kids. She went to the guards and was told the cameras are not working and they said are you sure you want to make a complaint, you have to live there,” he told this month’s Loughrea Municipal District meeting.
“A resident is putting a horse onto the green at night. There are guys going out picking up rubbish illegally and then dumping it out the country.”
He read out other text messages from residents detailing how they had been threatened with physical violence and were unable to sleep due to non-stop shouting throughout the night. Caravans were often parked outside some houses containing horses.
“It’s time we get strict with these and put the boot in. As one fella said, my kids are playing on the road and the horse is on the green,” said the Gort representative.
Galway County Council’s tenancy enforcement officer Evan Mulvey said since the CCTV cameras were installed at Crowe Street in early 2016 there had been a marked reduction in the number of complaints about antisocial behaviour incidents on site.
“I’m in Prospect Hill three or four days a week and the phone is not ringing about these incidents. They need to report crime and threats to the guards,” he told the meeting.
“The issue about a horse in Gort only came to my attention this morning…if there are issues in relation to a tenant for antisocial behaviour we will deal with it, but we have to those complaints. The same for looking at the cameras – we have to have a complaint before the cameras are checked.
“Criminal stuff is a matter for the guards. But all the cameras on Crowe Street and Gort are working, I can assure you of that.”
Cllr Jimmy McClearn (FG) said when he sat on the housing strategic policy committee €1 million of taxpayer-funded property was damaged or destroyed in a single year.
“People are just living in hell and we as a local authority can’t do anything about them. I was told we can’t start transferring people because the floodgates would open, so we’re trying to put a lid on it but sooner or late that lid will blow.
“A family with children can’t go outside the door, they can’t play, can’t engage in normal activity we take for granted.
“We can’t put CCTV everywhere, but we can get out with determination to enforce tenancy agreements. It’s not fair on people who do their best to go out to work and people out partying at 2am or 3am ensuring they can’t get a night’s sleep. As a local authority, we’re too placid, two understanding for too long and it’s got to stop.”
Mr Mulvey said he worked on a case where the tenant was prosecuted for antisocial behaviour and this person got three months in jail with a fine.
“Yes it was adjourned a couple of times and we were frustrated but the system will work. We’ve had two Section 12 eviction cases this year about persistent breaches of tenancy agreements and it went all the way to court and we were successful under the 2014 Housing Act.”
While the council had no authority to deal with tenants who have agreements with other housing bodies, it had to issue several warnings before it could take enforcement proceedings against its own tenants.
“If we go with something and we haven’t put the work in, we run the risk of it being thrown out and will have implications for other cases. Behind the scenes, warnings are being issued, inspections are taking place. Unfortunately, it’s not happening as fast as would like it to happen,” he stated.
“If we have no option we will pursue eviction, but every effort has to be made to maintain a tenancy.”
Cllr Finnerty said he was “baffled” to hear the Council was unaware of the extent of the problems in Crowe Street.
He urged the official to immediately visit the estate to “check for dogs, animals, pigs in trailers, horses in trailers and caravans, check what residents are there”.
He also invited Mr Mulvey to attend the next neighbourhood watch meeting, which he agreed to do.