A former mayor of Limerick has warned the city could be on the “slippery slope” back into feud gang violence following an attack on Limerick firefighters called to an arson attack on street security CCTV cameras.
Members of the fire service came under attack from a gang of youths who threw rocks at them and their vehicles on Tuesday night in St Mary’s Park, a regeneration estate.
An attempt had been made to torch CCTV cameras put in place to fight crime in the estate.
Former mayor of Limerick, Cllr John Gilligan, who lives in the area, said more sinister elements were using young people to try and retake control of the area for their drugs operations.
Mr Gilligan said: “We’re actually in competition with the scumbags of society. They want to take over estates, street by street, house by house, so they can sell drugs. We need the gardaí to move quickly, as this is a very serious development.
“A number of houses have been burned down recently and there are very worrying signs that young people connected to gang families are now being sent out as advance parties to help gangs move in again. The gardaí have done magnificent work to fight serious crime in Limerick, but their numbers have been allowed [to] fall. Action must now be taken, as a matter of urgency, to get garda numbers back to where they were. This must be dealt with as a matter of the utmost urgency.”
Shortly after 8pm on Tuesday, two units from Limerick City Fire and Rescue were sent to a scene following a report of a fire on the street near a community CCTV monitor. It was adjacent to a house that was extensively damaged by fire on Christmas Eve.
Firefighters dealt with the initial blaze, but crews came under attack.
One of the units was damaged when rocks and other items were thrown by a group gathered in the area.
Fire crews had to return to the scene less than an hour later, as another fire had been set at the same location.
Last November, there was a renewed call that emergency responders be protected by new laws after members of the Limerick City Fire and Rescue service were attacked over the Halloween weekend.
Rocks were thrown at a fire engine at the junction of Hyde Rd and Childers Rd by a group of youths gathered on the roadside. While no injuries were reported, damage was caused to the vehicle, which included a large dent to the panel above the driver’s door window.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman, Niall Collins, has called on the Government to protect emergency workers with specific legislation making it an offence to attack emergency personnel on duty.
“An attack on frontline emergency workers is also an attack on the community and people they are working to help and protect,” said Mr Collins.
He said it is very disturbing to hear stories of ambulance and fire personnel coming under attack over the Halloween weekend and he again called on the Government to act.
“It has been clear to me for quite some time that we do not have strong enough legislation in place to protect fire officers, gardaí, ambulance paramedics and other emergency personnel.
“There have been many serious and unacceptable incidents in recent years and I believe this should be stipulated in law and carry a severe penalty. I don’t share the Government’s view that emergency personnel don’t need or deserve special recognition. Such is the importance of their work and the risks they take daily to protect us, that I believe we should match their commitment with our protection and respect in law.”
Fianna Fáil produced the Assault on Emergency Workers Bill three years ago and Mr Collins said there was no reason why it had been allowed to languish on the Dáil order paper.
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