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Upset and anger at ‘intimidation and verbal abuse’ in Shannon park

THERE has been concern about the level of anti social behaviour at the Tír na nÓg playground in Shannon, close to the Leisure Centre.
Lesleyanne Casey’s six year old son was there on Monday with his father and had to leave due to some verbal abuse from teenagers.
Her little boy has autism and was very upset by the incident. “He doesn’t understand why they did what they did yesterday,” said Lesleyanne on Tuesday.
He was brought to the playground around 2.30pm and his father soon had to talk to some of the teenagers, who are too old for the facility, there.
“It started off with a lot of swearing and roaring, what they were going to do to each other’s mothers, this kind of thing. He said to them lads, can ye keep it down, there are kids around. They just started sniggering.”
She said they were using the derogatory N-word, which her son, not knowing its connotations, repeated.
“Noah being Noah, he picks up everything and he said the word. Next thing they started roaring abuse at him, saying he was racist. At this stage my husband stood up and said can you stop it, he’s only a child. They laughed that off and headed off onto the slide.
“There was a woman there with children and she took her children to the other side. My son went and tried to talk to them, but one of them caught him and pushed him down the slide, he ended up cutting his knee.
“At this stage he was upset and he went back to Tom and he told them get out of the park, ye’re too old to be in here. There’s a skatepark right beside it and they went in there.”
However the verbal abuse of her son soon resumed, and her husband felt he had no choice but to bring the little boy home.
She said there are always teenagers at the playground, although not all of them are problematic.
“We have brilliant teenagers, but a small number of bad apples are spoiling it for the rest of the town.”
These young people are causing a lot of issues, and don’t seem to have any fear of consequences. “They don’t care, they’ve no fear of anything. This is only one of a number of times this has happened.”
She feels more needs to be done to make sure that young children, who the playground is for, are able to use it.
“Something has to be done. A lot of money has been invested there, there are a lot of children in Shannon and they’re not able to access it for fear of having to meet that and it’s not right.”
While her son has autism, she says that shouldn’t deflect from what the issue was on Monday.
“It’s not about my son being autistic, it’s about bad behaviour. It just happened to be my child who’s autisitic that it happened to yesterday.”
With small innocent children being left fearful, she is worried that things could get ugly at some point.
“My big fear is that a parent will take it into their own hands, they’ll go and smack one of those kids and they’ll end up in trouble for it.”
Another woman who was there with her daughter last week also had a bad experience, and said she won’t risk taking her child there in the evenings again.
“I told my daughter we wouldn’t be going there after work anymore, that we’d go at the weekends when the bold boys are still in bed.”
While things were okay at first after they arrived, things soon darkened.
“We got there around 5pm, there were a couple of teenagers there, some of them are fine, you’d ask them to move and they’ll let the kids use the swings. But then around 5.20pm a couple of other lads came in. They went to the other end and whatever happened there the two families with small children left. Then they came down to us.”
Her daughter was using one of the pieces of play equipment and the two teenagers were quite belligerent.
“I said lads can you take it handy, there’s a little one on the ropes, they ignored me and they pouded past me and she nearly came through the ropes.”
The two teens also refused to allow her to get off the piece of equipment. “I said lads can you cop on and let a child who is age appropriate use the slide. Then they started off ‘I’m age appropriate, you stupid c**t’ and it just went on from there.”
The woman had to climb onto the structure herself to get her daugher down.
She warned that she would call the Gardaí if they didn’t desist, but they were not bothered at all, and quite a lot of verbal abuse followed.
Eventually the woman said she became angry and was quite disappointed in herself. “I’m more upset that I ended up raising my voice and cursing back at them.”
Feeling unsafe, she decided they had to leave, and they went to report the matter. “The Guards said that they had numerous complaints, cleared them many times, but they keep coming back. I said that’s not good enough, I’m physically shaking here, this child is the right age to be there and we just had to leave.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.