Freedom of beach: ‘Ballyheigue Baywatch’ monitor antisocial thugs
A group of concerned citizens in a popular tourist spot have started patrolling the area in a bid to curb anti-social behaviour by teenage thugs who are there on lengthy staycations.
Dubbed ‘Ballyheigue Baywatch’ and ‘Kerry’s Guardian Angels’ by locals, the men and women from the picturesque village on Kerry Head say they have been forced to take action to curb a recent spate of violence and intimidation.
And the patrol group includes local and well-known MMA fighter, Richie Stack.
Already this summer the teen terrors – who are not from the locality – have forced one terrified young man to flee the area for his own safety after accusing him of “grassing” on them following a house burglary. And last Friday week another local youth was given “a few belts”.
Locals also claimed young girls are being forced to hand over their phones and are being verbally abused if they fail to comply.
At a meeting a few weeks ago, villagers decided enough was enough and organised themselves to fight back.
One of the group’s founders, Risteard O Fuarain, told the Sunday World: “The young fella who was accused of grassing was accused in the wrong – he’s away up the country and petrified to come home, that’s not acceptable.
“These thugs are coming down here from Cork and Limerick this year instead of going to Spain and Portugal and we are getting the problems that are usually exported.
“There have been a couple of fires set in the area that caused damage, local girls are frightened to walk past where these latchicos congregate – and where there used to be a few guards in the local station there’s now just the one.
“Probably the straw that broke the camel’s back was when a young girl was hassled and abused for refusing to give these yobs her phone, this happened on July 8 and at seven o’clock that evening she went to the station to report it.
“The station was shut and she was informed the guard wouldn’t be working again until four days later.
“Now that guard is top class at his job, but he is entitled to his time off and when he is not there who protects us then?
“We have to fend for ourselves, that incident angered the community so about a fortnight back we held a meeting and formed the Ballyheigue Community Alert group.
“Actually it was originally going to be called Immediate Response and Action, but when we saw the initials we thought we better choose a different name!
“We walk the beach in the day time and at night we patrol in cars, we cover the GAA grounds, the square in the village, all around the place. They are not so brave when they see some of us around, and our ranks include a fairly handy MMA fighter, Richie Stack.
“We are not vigilantes, we do not take the law in our own hands, let’s just say we make our presence known and make it clear to this feckin’ shower of wannabe hard men that they are not welcome.
“There’s already been one face to face confrontation and they threw a few shapes, but when they realised we were not going anywhere they actually shook our hands and moved on.”
Risteard says the group has spoken with the owners of the local caravan sites where the troublemakers are staying and have received a positive response.”
“A number of them attended the initial meeting and told us they thought they kept them on a fairly tight rein but that after hearing what was going on they would try to tighten their grip.
“That was pleasing to hear but I suppose ultimately we’d like them to tell the yobs they are no longer welcome on their sites.
“To be fair, we have noticed an increase in garda cars patrolling the area since we have been formed and I want to make it clear the guards do their best — there’s just not enough of them.
“I don’t imagine any of us involved ever thought we’d have to do something like this but we are here now and we are not going away.’
Anto Casey, who owns Ballyheigue’s largest caravan park, said some of his property had been damaged recently.
“I’m more than willing to sit down with owners of the other parks and see what we can do to get rid of the ones that are upsetting the whole community,” he said.