Bonfires leave estate in terrible state and put lives at risk
residents of Ferndale say that parts of the estate were left in a terrible state following the Hallowe'en weekend, with bonfires lit dangerously close to houses and eggs thrown at their homes by unruly children, some as young as 12 and 13.
And after years of putting up with the anti-social acts involving small numbers of troublemakers there are clear signs that most people living in the community have had enough and are calling for talks with stake-holders to air their grievances and to try to get something done to improve the situation.
'I was in my bedroom on Sunday night to looked out the window to see a flame higher than my back wall,' said one local resident.
Councillors said it was unacceptable that residents felt that their homes were under threat and urgent action was needed.
'The two clothes lines out in the back burnt down off the rails with the fire. It is sickening to look out and see the damage that's been caused to my back wall and the damage that could potentially have turned into something much worse than a "harmless" little fire,' said a resident.
She said the following day, a fire was lit in 'broad daylight 'opposite the gymnasium'.
'I have concerns that Wexford County Council are failing the people of Ferndale and have been for years. It is now the season of the Wexford Opera and for the people of Ferndale it is the season of bonfires,' she said.
While the most serious incidents were in Ferndale, fires were set in other parts of the town and in Taghmon, where at least one house was 'egged'.
Councillors George Lawlor and Deirdre Wadding visited Ferndale last Wednesday to discuss the extent of the problem with local people.
The remains of bonfires, including large amounts of unburned rubbish still litter parts of the estate, with scorched walls and piles of ashes in local car parks, the remains of at least three separate blazes in one of them.
Cllr Wadding said she was horrified at what she saw.
'It's an ongoing issue, not just at Hallowe'en but I was absolutely horrified.. there were scorch marks right up the back of the wall of a resident's house and I can still smell the acrid fumes. Clearly there was all kinds of everything burned in the fires,' she said.
Cllr Wadding said she was aware of at least three fires being lit in the area over the weekend, including one at the back of the after-school club.
'The problem is that it could be any night of the week, there is so much material just dumped there. I'm not interested in a witch hunt, but the question is how do we tackle it. We need to get the gardai involved, the council, the local councillors in a united group to work together with the community as a united group,' said the People Before Profit member.
Cllr Lawlor said action needed to be taken.
'In the past bonfires were set in car park areas and while they were unwelcome, they didn't necessarily cause a threat to property. This weekend, we had bonfires in a laneway between houses which could have had disastrous consequences,' said Cllr Lawlor.
He said it was unacceptable that people should feel their homes and property were under threat.
And while the majority of those involved in setting the fire were youngsters 'it would appear that some adults may be encouraging kids to burn stuff and supplying them with stuff that they want to throw out.'
Sean Cooke, from the FDYS, which with FAB organised a highly successful Hallowe'en festival in Coolcotts, said 1,200 peope from local estates attended the event and there had been no trouble whatsoever.
'There might have been one or two isolated incidents, but we didn't get any indication from the guards that there had been any,' said Mr Cooke, who said that young people and families had attended the festival which culminated with fireworks and a bonfire near the Coolcotts Shopping Centre,
'It was fantastic, with great community involvement and positivity,' said Mr Cooke.
Businessman Anthony Doyle, owner of Londis Coolcotts Shopping Centre, said he wanted to congratulate the FDYS for the event, showcasing the community spirit in the area.
'In recent years we have the addition of a state of the art Gymnastics Club, capable of hosting international competitions. Alongside them are the SIPTU offices and a vibrant Community Centre which is home to the Wexford Able Disabled Club together with a number of other local groups. We also have a very highly regarded primary school, Scoil Mhuire which incorporates one of the best autistic units in the country.
'All these factors contribute to the growing sense of community in the area.
'Finally as a member of the Coolcotts Community I am fully aware that every area has its issues and this area is no exception but in my opinion this area has improved and continues to improve with the contribution of local business, voluntary groups,sporting organisations and individuals from the Coolcotts community,' said Mr Doyle.
Despite the sparks of positivity, some residents said they felt let down by the system that meant that problems had been left unchecked for years.
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In an open letter to the county council, a 'concerned resident' charged that 'for the last 25 years you have failed to protect the people and property of Ferndale due to your lack of organisation and risk assessment.
'The councillors visit and survey the damage after the event like any good leader does to show the people that he/she does care. However a good leader would then put a plan in place to prevent this happening year in year out.
'I have lost count the number of times the gardai and fire service have been called to the area regarding this issue. Surely preventing this happening would save the council money and it will get to a stage where some one is seriously hurt or serious damage to property is caused.'
The 'concerned resident' said children are throwing dangerous items into bonfires including gas canisters.
And he asked why can't the county council sit down with the gardai and fire service and make up an plan for this yearly issue, carry out a leaflet drop to all parents regarding the issue and reminding them of the laws regarding fly tipping, criminal damage (and) arson or ask the gardai for their plan they have for dealing with this yearly issue?
He also suggested that council clean up crews start later in the day to work an evening shift or to provide an extra crew to clear bonfire material as it builds up to prevent the issue before it begins.
A married woman who has lived in the estate since she was 10, said things had got progressively worse.
'There were always bonfires, but they have become frequent, and not just at Hallow'en. A man living near the alleyway leading to the school and shops was told it couldn't happen because it was a walkway for people. But he was promised back in 2008 that the lights would be repaired there and they still haven't been,' she said.
'I've had eggs thrown at my house, stones thrown at it. On Monday I had rubbish dumped all over my driveway because I got on to them,' she said, referring a young teenagers involved in setting the bonfires.
'You get abuse most days,' she said, adding that while the official FDYS celebrations were taking place, groups of youngsters were walking through the crowds unchallenged with material to build their own illegal bonfires.
'The FDYS parade was meant to help what is going on, but it hasn't. I feel angry and intimidated. My husband works nights and when he's not here I lock up straight away. My garden furniture was stolen and ended up on a bonfire.
'We just want the estate fixed, we don't want to live here like this any more,' she said.