11th November, 1999

Last week I wrote about the gangs that seem to be congregating in Douglas lately, and that unless something is done, the situation is going to get worse. Since last week three people have spoken to me about the situation. The first person was a mother who received a telephone call to inform her that her son had been assaulted and was in hospital. Her words to me were, “When I got he phone call the worse thoughts entered my mind, including was he on a life support machine?” Thankfully, he was not. The second person was also a mother who told me her sons will not go through Douglas Village at night, in fear of being beaten up. And one of her sons told her he is emigrating to America when he is older. The reason? He told her he’d feel safer there. The third person I spoke to was a Garda. He told me there are less Garda stationed in Douglas now than there were 15 years ago. He also told me that they are undermanned in the Douglas station. He did know that there were gangs causing problems in Douglas and that assaults had taken place. But he stated that Garda off-duty were prepared to come in at nights and patrol. But, of course, that would involve overtime. His parting words were, “Michael, it’s all about economics, nothing else but economics!”
My advice to anybody who has been assaulted is to report it to the Gardai, have them brought to court, and hopefully they will be fined and bound to the peace. If they break that court order they will be in serious trouble. We all know that parts of the City centre are ‘no go’ areas at night (especially weekends). Douglas belongs to us all and we are entitled to walk through it day and night without fear of intimidation or worse. There is a public order law and 99% of local people will support our Gardai on whatever it takes to stamp out this increasing menace.
To our councillors, and I know that they read the Douglas Weekly, the two flashing beacons at the zebra crossing just past Daily’s off licence are not working. A reader told me that she nearly knocked down a pedestrian on the crossing last week. Six months ago local man Billy McCarthy wrote a letter to the Weekly, not once but twice, and I mentioned it three times. The crossing, even with the beacons flashing, does not let the motorist see somebody crossing. Before somebody is seriously injured, or worse, put a light up to let the motorist see a pedestrian on the crossing. I do not want to write I told you so. Councillors, take a drive down at night to see what I mean.
Last weeks national newspapers told us the price of cigarettes was to increase by 1 a packet of 20. On tonight’s Echo this was dropped to 30p a packet, the reason being that the report of the joint committee on Health and Children had just been published. Committee chairman Batt O’Keeffe tells us that studies in the U.S. had shown that there was a 10% increase in the price of a packet and sales to teenagers dropped by 7%. Batt, young people wouldn’t bend down to pick up 30p on the street. Next recommendation was that smoking should be banned at sporting events. How many people attend a Munster final at Pairc ui Caomh? 45,000? or a cup match at Turner’s Cross? Also recommended is that the age for buying cigarettes be raised from 16 to 18. Think about it, you can get amrried at 16, but no smoking until you’re 18. You can get a driver’s licence at 17, but if you’re stopped at a Garda check point will they smell your breath? Not for alcohol, but for ciggies? I remember last year when a T.D. wanted to introduce a licence of car radios, whatever because of him.?
I’m told there are 100,000 people in hospitals with alcohol related problems. We all know people whose families have been destroyed by the demon drink, but no talk of 1 on the pint. Parents, would you prefer to see your 17 or 18 year old fond of Vodka or a cigarette? I thought so.
As I write this the news has come through the Fianna Fail T.D. John Ellis has resigned as chairperson of an Agricultural committee. John’s company which bought castle went bust a few years ago. Even with the help from N.I.B. and C.J. Haughey John couldn’t hold on. However, when the company went bust a lot of farmers were owed a lot of money, and his position as chairman was to quote a lot of scribes and politicians ‘untenable’. His constituency would include a lot or rural voters, and John’s future in politics does not look too rosy. Unless anybody knows any friendly banks? What odds on the woman (her name escapes me) who came close to beating Dana in the E.U. elections being groomed for the next general election? Goodnight John Boy.
Once again local man Barra O’Tuama is bringing a musical treat to Douglas. Next Wednesday night at Rochestown Park Hotel you can hear the principal tenor of the Kirov Opera Alexei Steblianko, international mezzo-soprano Sally Burgess and leading UK baritone John Rawsley in fine voice. All this controversary nowadays about pop singers not really singing in concert, but miming to perfection. This is an opportunity to hear real singers. Tickets from 9.00. Where would you get it. Answer, only in Douglas. See you there!

Bye for now,
Michael O’Hanlon.

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