Hartstown Huntstown FC have called on Fingal County Councillors to back up their words with action following the latest act of vandalism committed on club’s pitches in Hartstown Park.
A custom-built goalpost was destroyed and fire damage left on the artificial pitch, while drug paraphernalia was also left behind, leading the club to cancel training on Tuesday night.
The club leases the council facility and is jointly-responsible for its upkeep, but a council decision to remove CCTV cameras to cut costs has removed the main deterrent to antisocial behaviour.
Teenage gangs wait around until the facility is locked up at night before finding or making holes in the perimeter fence, and light fires on the pitch to keep warm.
The goalposts will have to be replaced at cost to the club of €3,000, and director of football Dave Byrne estimates total damages over the past two years in the region of €25,000.
A member of the community has offered to repair the perimeter fence at no cost, but the reality is that children’s subs will have to be redirected to repairing and replacing the pitch and goalposts.
Byrne says the club have received a number of supportive messages from councillors in response to vandalism over the years but, to date, it hasn’t been backed up with meaningful action.
“The goals have been repaired a number of times, but obviously they weaken each time,” Byrne told the Dublin Gazette.
“On this occasion, we just have to replace them. We’ve had a kind offer from a member of the community to weld the fence at no charge.
“We don’t mind the kids going in [during daylight hours] because that’s what the pitch is for, once everyone minds and behaves themselves and plays football on it.
“The antisocial behaviour when the pitch is closed, during the hours of darkness, has caused us considerable difficulty.
“It’s a number of different gangs, guys in their mid to late teens coming in when no one else is around.
“And there is an intimidation factor and a fear factor because there is drug paraphernalia and drugs in use, and a clear smell coming from the affected area.”
Fingal County Council and the club assisted one another in paying a four-figure monthly sum for surveillance cameras but the council voted to have them removed, and crime has surged since.
“It’s a challenge we have with the council where we opposed the decision to take down the cameras. There have been considerable and persistent acts of vandalism on the pitch.
“It’s all well and good [councillors] putting something up as soon as you’re tagged. It’s very easy to write something. But it’s a different challenge to go out there and do something about.
“I also find at times like this, there are a couple of councillors who will speak about it, but very few who will do anything about it. We’re looking for action, not words.”