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My garage is not a meeting place for the young: owner

Weekend madness: a businessman’s plea

By Ciara Quinn

STAFF at the Moneen filling station at Finaghy Road North say its only a matter of time before “someone gets hurt” as large crowds of young people continue to gather there at weekends.

Manager Stephen Malone said the garage has had to employ up to three security staff to man the forecourt and garage shop on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Over the past month or so crowds are gathering here every weekend and it is really getting out of hand,” he said. “We have had to employ extra security men as customers have been complaining that they feel intimidated coming into the shop – and it’s getting to the stage where they aren’t coming in at all. The PSNI have been called numerous times to come out but the crowds still come back the following week.

“There is drink involved as well as we witnessed one young fella karate-kick a bus that had stopped at the traffic lights and one wee girl nearly fell into one of the pumps. This is a garage and you have cars coming in and out and it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt,” he said.

Stephen says he has seen private taxis dropping off kids and parents pulling up to offload their children.

“This is not a meeting place. We’ve seen kids coming down here in their pyjamas. Where are the parents? Why are they letting their kids come out like that? Nearby residents have contacted us complaining about rubbish being dumped in their property and there have been instances reported where kids have been urinating in people’s gardens. Something needs to be done and fast.”

Local Sinn Féin councillor Matt Garrett told the Andersonstown News that parents should be playing a “key role”by knowing where their children are at night.

“We need to be all singing  from the same hymn sheet in trying to tackle this problem,” he said. “We are about to launch an extensive media campaign asking parents ‘Where are your children tonight?’ Leaflets will be hand-delivered to every door in Finaghy Road North and posted through every door in West Belfast. Social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter are playing a big part in these weekly get-togethers and parents should be aware that the legal age to have a social network profile is 13.

“We are working with the PSNI, Belfast City Council, and community safety wardens, of which there are six working in this area, to try and tackle this problem.”

Cllr Garrett said schools were keen to be involved in the campaign which would not be just a one-off.

“The campaign was specifically designed because of the issues at the garage, on Finaghy Road North and the Andersonstown Road.

“It is my intention to even leave the leaflets in the local churches and have the priest read out the information contained at Mass.

“The issue of crowds gathering is one that comes up time and time again. The crowds that are gathering are creating a perception of fear among the community and the knock-on effect is people aren’t using the garage for petrol or essentials,” he said.

“We do not want to demonise or criminalise young people – they are part of our community – but these huge crowds are creating a perception of fear within the local community and they are having an impact on businesses.”

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said: “There is no doubt that sizeable crowds of young people have been gathering at Finaghy Road North which can cause alarm. The vast majority of them are not involved in anti-social behaviour but the sheer numbers of them can frighten local residents and impact on local businesses.

“It is important that the PSNI try to reduce the numbers gathering but we must also develop effective outreach programmes to try and engage with the young people.

“The West Belfast Area Outreach Project do positive street-based youth work which should be better supported. We must also investigate the possibility of extending the opening hours of youth facilities. The SDLP is meeting the BELB to discuss these matters.”

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