Heartbreaking Drogheda feud violence leaving traumatised kids too scared to sleep
"The children are drawing pictures of violence where people are being shot, with bullet holes in their heads and chest and pictures of helicopters over houses”
Gang feud violence has mentally scarred children living in a frontline Drogheda housing estate, according to a heartbreaking report.
Locals and professionals working in the Moneymore estate in the town told how children from the area are falling asleep in school because they are lying awake frightened at night.
Other children draw pictures of people being shot and Garda helicopters flying over their houses.
There are also serious concerns for a number of kids being groomed by the crime gangs to become their footsoldiers of the future.
Local activists told the Sunday World how they already know of young people suffering PTSD as a result of the feud.
The gangland war has seen dozens of arson attacks, kidnaps, torture, shootings as well as the gruesome murder of Keane Mulready-Woods, whose body was dismembered.
One local told researchers how they had recently stopped in their tracks when they heard a child laugh in the estate as it was so rare.
“I realised I have not heard a child laugh here in a long time. We are missing the laughter from the streets.”
The report was carried out by Laura Walsh, an MA of Social Work graduate who grew up in the area, as part of University College Cork’s Community-Academic Research Links project along with Moneymore Community Consortium.
She worked with professionals and community members in the estate to look into the impact that living in Moneymore during the feud has had on kids.
The feud between a drug-dealing faction based in Moneymore and a gang linked to mobster Owen Maguire has exploded on the doorsteps of kids in the town in recent years.
They are growing up hearing about murders including the brutal killing of Mulready-Woods who was only 17 when he abducted and killed last January before his body parts were dumped in different areas.
“Some children have directly witnessed houses being petrol bombed and cars being set on fire,” said one local. “They have been evacuated from their own houses at night or have heard stories of their neighbours being shot at or of shots fired through their windows.... The children are terrified and are afraid to go asleep.”
Participants in the research said they believed growing up in the area during the feud could have an impact on a child’s development.
“They cannot concentrate in the classroom and are falling behind in schoolwork,” one said. “I have even seen children fall asleep in class... they are afraid to go asleep at night”.
Children were also showing their feelings through aggressive or avoiding behaviours.
“The children’s play has changed. They are very aggressive with their toys and with other children,” said one contributor.
Another added: “The children are drawing pictures of violence where people are being shot, with bullet holes in their heads and chest and pictures of helicopters over houses.”
Those who took part in the study said they also had deep concern for a small number of kids engaging in anti-social behaviour.
“Some of the children see this as a glamorised lifestyle, they see the flash cars, the expensive clothes and want that kind of life”.
“Children as young as 12 years are being groomed into the gangs. They see the money, clothing and want this immediate gratification.”
There are also concerns that parents are passing on their anxieties to their offspring.
“Children are not allowed to play as freely as a child should.... parents are keeping the children in doors they are afraid to let them out... they worry that their children could be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said one contributor.
Local Labour Councillor Pio Smith told the Sunday World the effect the feud would leave some children with mental health problems.
“The trauma children are going through in Moneymore could and probably is leaving life-long damage to them in terms of their mental health and that needs to change.
“There are a lot of young women in particular and some young men have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of what’s going on in these estates and that’s fact.”
He said there was a problem with gangs grooming young children.
“Kids as young as 12 and 13 are being used by the gangs to hide weapons, deliver drugs and carry out intimidation attacks on adults, particularly on women.
“If you brutalise a young child of 12 or 13 and there is no intervention to help them then by the time they’re 18 it’s very hard to bring them back and that has happened.”
The study also heard that some kids who have one parent living in Moneymore and another living elsewhere don’t visit their parent or grandparents in Moneymore because of fears about the feud.
Local residents and workers say feud violence and high garda activity in the area has become normalised in the estate but that shouldn’t be something that is normalised.
Laura Walsh found in her research that children living there are reported to be fearful, sad and distressed.
“The neighbourhood is void of children laughing and playing in the streets as a direct consequence of the gang-related violence in the area. This is having a deleterious impact on the psychosocial, cognitive and physiological development of children living here.”
She said the research has identified a fundamental need for kids living there to experience Moneymore as safe in order for them to thrive and do well.