RATS and yobs and filth had made a playground in the Smith’s Field/Kirwan Park area unusable, claimed Mountmellick Town Councillors at their monthly meeting last Thursday night.
To step through a gate into the rubbish-strewn facility was like “going from heaven to hell,” declared Cllr Ollie Payne.
He elaborated: “The field is dirty and rat-infested. The amount of bottles and filth and dirt and household scrap is frightening down there. If we are going to be responsible we should not encourage children to go down there.”
Chairman Cllr Stephen Lynch: “Vermin - that’s a health and safety issue. It should be looked into straight away.”
Deputy Co Manager Ian McCormack thought the Council shouldn’t be “giving into anti-social behaviour.”
But Cllr Paddy Bracken argued: “People won’t go down to use it (playground) because of the fear factor.”
Cllr Marc Connolly claimed it had cost a quarter million euros to put equipment into the playground. He described this as a “complete waste.”
After a long discussion, Councillors unanimously agreed that a meeting of all interested parties should be convened in an effort to resolve the issue. They also felt that the play equipment should be transferred as quickly as possible from the Smith’s Field locality to the new playground currently being created on the old library site at Irishtown.
Cllr Connolly said young mothers were wondering when such a transfer of equipment would take place. He added: “It’s only common sense to move it to Irishtown.”
Cllr Payne: “The MDA should be asked to put a camera high on their building to monitor the playground (in Irishtown).”
Turning to the present playground near Smith’s Field, he said there was no fence between it and Kirwan Park and cars and motor bikes were driving in and out. There was broken glass on the path inside the playground, he revealed.
Cllr Michael Gormley: “It’s not suitable down there for a playground. We must just realize that.”
Cllr Payne: “The playground is important, but the people living down there are more important.”
Manager McCormack: “I will take it up with the environmental section.”
Cllr Bracken: “The environmental section is aware of it. It (playground) is on private property.”
Chairman Lynch: “It might be private property but the playground is public.”
Cllr Bobby Delaney: “Last week a horse roamed through it. I would nearly rather see the equipment go to another town rather than leave it down there. A fence in the area was cut down with a consaw.”
Cllr Bracken warned that if a youngster fell into a ditch in the area there would be headlines proclaiming “Child dies in middle of Mountmellick.”
Cllr Payne: “My first priority is the dirt and filth and vermin. The playground is another issue.”
Cllr Bracken: “It was a disaster from day one. Some equipment was in the river last week. We have a lovely facility in Irishtown. I’m sure every mother and toddler will use it.”
Cllr Payne: “It’s not the playground that’s bringing these boys (yobs). Do you think they are going to move out (from Smith’s Field) when the playground moves?”
Cllr Rosemary Whelan: “The area is dark. There is no CCTV. It needs to be solved sooner rather than later.”
Cllr Gormley promised to bring the issue to the attention of the Parish Council of which he was a member. (According to Councillors, the Parish Councll owns Smith’s Field).
Cllr Bracken said the PP was “fully conscious” of the problem.
Cllr Delaney: “No-one has respect for it. It’s just Smith’s Field. You could do what you like in it.”
Cllr Payne called for the erection of a clear fence in the area, thus removing “cover” for anti-social behabiour.
Manager McCormack: “The money would not be there to do that job.”
Cllr Payne: “It’s an emergency. People are going to be asked for 100 euros a house.”
Cllr Pat Bowe said a letter should go to to the Environment Minister urging him to increase the penalties on yobs and to name and shame them, and to make them pay for the clean-up.