A DISAGREEMENT erupted among members of Portlaoise Town Council recently, when Cllr Caroline Dwane accused Laois County Council of failing to step up to the mark in dealing with anti-social behaviour in council estates.
The councillor’s remarks came at last week’s town council meeting, when she proposed a motion for the county council, the HSE and the gardaí to work closely together to deal with anti-social activity in neighbourhoods. She also suggested that rent allowance be withheld from families who are actively involved in this behaviour.
In a response from Fionnuala Daly of the housing section, it was said that Laois County Council promotes co-operation with the gardaí and other relevant agencies in dealing with anti-social behaviour in properties owned by Laois County Council.
“I don’t agree with that response,” said Cllr Dwane. “I was getting serious reports from people on the Ballyfin Road about anti-social behaviour. I contacted the county council and, to be honest, the housing department didn’t step up to the mark to deal with the intimidation of residents in housing department homes.”
She said that there were seven juveniles “causing havoc” on the Ballyfin Road and it was time for the council to get on top of the problem.
“People are being intimidated, their houses are being burnt,” she said, going on to suggest that rent allowance should be stopped for anyone who commits such crimes.
“We’re all tax payers here. I don’t want my taxes going to someone with juvenile children who are out burning people out of their homes.... I don’t believe these people should get rent allowance,” she said.
Her party colleague, Cllr Alan Hand said that rent allowance is a privilege and people in flagrant abuse of this should not get it.
“I know the young juveniles involved: they’re great lads to confront single mothers, but when a big man confronts them they’re small men,” said Cllr Hand.
In reply to Cllr Dwane, Michael Rainey of the housing department said that the response from Laois County Council was correct.
“We carry out great work,” he said. “We’re in continuous communication with the gardaí.” He also pointed out that the council do not have the power to stop someone’s rent allowance due to anti-social behaviour.
Cllr Kathleen O’Brien and Cllr Willie Aird both voiced their support for the housing section of Laois County Council. Cllr O’Brien said it was sad that people have to live in fear, but the county council do act on the matter, while Cllr Aird said he had nothing but the height of praise for the housing staff.
Cllr Dwane said she stood over her criticism of the housing department, but a number of councillors argued that it was unfair for her to criticise staff members who were not present. At that point, town mayor, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said she was closing down the matter and ordered Cllr Dwane to move on.