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Fighting chance Former soldier ready to fight Department of Justice over the lack of gardai after attack on son

Hundreds of locals turn out for rally after teen's brutal attack

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Tania O'Neill has been in contact with the office of Heather Humpheys

Tania O'Neill has been in contact with the office of Heather Humpheys

Tania O'Neill has been in contact with the office of Heather Humpheys

A former soldier is ready to go to war with the Department of Justice over the lack of Garda resources in her local area following a vicious assault on her 18-year-old son.

And Tania O'Neill, (44), from Mornington in Co Meath, who now works as a midwife, has warned the temporary office holder, Heather Humphreys: "If this is not sorted I have absolutely no problem taking the battle to your front door."

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday World, tenacious Tania declared: "It's personal since the attack was on my eldest lad, but my campaign is for the wider community and that has been recognised by the huge volume of support it has attracted.

"We held a rally on Bettystown beach and hundreds turned up - and since then I have had as many more calls and emails from people apologising for missing it due to being away for the bank holiday weekend."

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Part of the rally on Bettystown beach.

Part of the rally on Bettystown beach.

Part of the rally on Bettystown beach.

Tania's son James, who is currently sitting his Leaving Cert exams, came home battered and bruised after a large group of young teens attacked him and a pal on the dunes at Bettystown on June 3.

She said it was her 'worst nightmare' and brought back memories of an incident she was involved in some years back.

"I was angry - that was my initial reaction. But when the full story came out what really boiled my blood was that grown men who saw what was going on ran and hid in their cars rather than try and help.

"I am originally from Blanchardstown, and years ago when I was learning to drive I was coming home in the car about three in the morning and I saw a gang of men kicking a lad to bits on the floor, the guy was actually unconscious and they were still kicking him.

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Part of the rally on Bettystown beach.

Part of the rally on Bettystown beach.

Part of the rally on Bettystown beach.

"I stopped and ran over to the scene and dragged the poor chap away and put him into the back of my car and drove him to hospital, I didn't even hesitate. I knew it was the right thing to do, yet this time around men ran away and hid - that really got to me.

"What really drove it home to me was the fact that James's friend was hit with a rock and I remembered the guy I saved had been hit with a brick, in fact the writing on the brick they used was imprinted on his forehead, they had struck him that hard.

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"Yet people left two teenage boys to their fate without even trying to help. I still cannot get my head around that.

"My son's a big chap and no shrinking violet, he plays GAA and rugby, but when he was hopped on by around 100 others who were fighting to get a kick at him, as dogs would fight over meat, then what chance had he?

"The thugs who attacked him are just uneducated buffoons, they are brought up in an era where MMA is a big sport for their age group and where you are allowed to carry on beating someone when they are down.

"The thing is, MMA fighters choose to get in a ring and fight - my son did not do that and neither did his pal. Those who attacked them have no respect for the law, their parents don't care what they get up as they won't be punished either.

"This has been my worst nightmare and it is one I won't wake up from until those responsible end up in Oberstown detention centre. I want to see them do time for this."

When passers-by spotted the attack some rang 999 and that is where Tania sees the kernel of the problem she is highlighting.

"There is a garda station in Laytown which is about a two minute drive away but it is hardly ever open. The whole coastal area of Bettystown, Laytown and Mornington, which has a population of around 22,000, is serviced by Ashbourne 33 kilometres away. Amazingly, when the Ashbourne line was busy that day calls were routed to the station in Kildare town, for God's sake - that is nearly 100 kilometres away.

"When I called the rally on the beach I kind of anticipated the support I would get as locals around here have had enough on this issue.

"A few days before James was attacked there was a brawl between two feuding families in the middle of Bettystown village and by the time the guards arrived it was long over. There is only so much a community can take before they make a stand and we are at a breaking point here.

"I was nervous addressing the crowd because it is not something I have much experience at but once I got into my stride I was fine. The emotion of a mammy fighting for her son and fighting for a wider cause took over.

"Since then, I have emailed Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and the reply said he will get back to me, he better because I am a mammy on a mission and anyone who knows me will tell you when I have a target to achieve I get the job done - that is probably my army training in fairness.

"I have also emailed Heather Humphreys who is the acting Justice Minister and as of yet heard nothing back. Now I am not afraid to say this, if I have to arrive up to the front door of Heather Humphreys' house I will do it; trust me I am not a bit scared of doing that.

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Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys.

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys.

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys.

"Two local TDs, Ged Nash and Fergus O'Dowd, have promised to raise the matter in the Dáil so she will at least know the background to it before I speak to her.

"It seems to me that up to now the Minister is not very good at listening to people on the issue of garda resources, but believe me she will listen to me.

"I will say what I have to say to her face, I won't be aggressive, that is not my nature, but I'll be forceful. This community has a message to deliver, which is that East Meath needs a fully staffed garda station, operational 24 hours a day, and I will make sure that message is heard."

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