College Avenue residents are demanding that the Smiths Field bridge be knocked down or blocked off.
They say the 200 year old masonry bridge is being used as an access route by underage drinkers and vandals, and they are tolerating “anti-social behaviour on a near daily basis”.
The residents association are also footing the bill for CCTV cameras focussed on the bridge, demanding support from Mountmellick’s Gardaí.
“How are you going to assist us in dealing with constant trouble? We feel strongly that cutbacks are no reason why we should be left unprotected from such lawlessness,” their statement said at last Thursday’s joint Policing meeting.
Cllr Bobby Delaney has backed their demand. He said the bridge was used by underage drinkers to get into Smiths Field to celebrate their Junior Certs the night before the meeting.
“The problem unfortunately is the bridge. What was it used for yesterday? Everbody knew. They are coming through College Avenue and causing a problem. In Ashgrove the Nun’s Bridge caused problems too. When it was removed there was a solution, the estate became a cul de sac. The bridge problem has to be solved, whether it’s to do with the parish, the council or the Gardaí,” he said.
College Avenue resident Sean Cronin said stones were being thrown at his house by youths, who stood unafraid when he went out to “face them down”.
“The law is on their side when they are juveniles. They throw stones, then they shoot off into the field,” he said.
He will not allow his two small children to use the playground which is just over the bridge.
“The only safe place to bring them is Clonaslee. The bridge is a lovely piece of stonework and I know it’s a right of way, but it’s the root of the problem, it’s being abused. What about gates either side?” he said.
Ger Lynch disagreed with knocking the bridge down.
“It hasn’t committed a crime, it’s those people using it. You don’t scrap the bridge, you deal with the problem of people committing crime,” he said.
The installation of CCTV was welcomed by Inspector Martin Harrington.
“CCTV is a brilliant piece of equipment. When they (the accused) look at it, we get a guilty plea, it speeds up the process. You are quite entitled to have it pointing at your property,” he said.
Ian McCormack, Deputy Manager of Mountmellick town council, agreed to organise a meeting between the residents, gardaí and Laois County Council. He also suggested inviting the new Parish Priest, Fr Micheál Murphy.