'Does it take somebody to get killed for something to actually happen?'
"This area is not policed, it's a free for all, and everybody is welcome to come here, they can drink openly, the drink is not taken away. And they can cause violence undisturbed and get away with it, and come back day on day, and it's not enough. We've all had enough."
That was the emotional and angry response from the mother of a teenager who was brutally attacked after being set upon by a gang of youths on Bettystown beach on Thursday evening. The mother of three, a midwife at our Lady of Lourdes Hospital organised and addressed a protest at the beach's entrance to highlight the spiralling number of assaults and anti-social behaviour in the coastal village and demanding a 24/7 manned Garda station for the area.
Over 200 people showed up for the rally in the wake of the attack and that left the two local youths badly bruised and beaten.
Tania O'Neill described how the unprovoked attack came after the two pals went for a walk to get a break from Leaving Cert studying. "I know my son and his friends are at home, they're shook up, they're injured, but they will heal and they have great support from what I can see."
She said only for the intervention of two off duty gardaí and a local woman who selflessly stepped in to save the young man and his friend from the frenzied mob which had been drinking in the dunes, the outcome could have been much worse.
WATCH THE RALLY HERE
"Our kids and our families need to feel safe in this area. If we want to go for a walk on this beach, if we want to to feel safe in our homes at night, we should be able to ring for assistance and get our local gardai who know us and come to our rescue and help when needed. We're not waiting on gardai from Ashbourne, over 30 kilometres away, for them to arrive, half an hour too late or for somebody to be killed. This is no longer being accepted by any of us."
Bettystown resident Councillor Sharon Tolan praised the local community for turning out in force to support Tania and her family and echoed demands for a 24/7 manned Garda station for the region.
"It seems ironic that nearly 20 years ago I started a group called Concerned Parents of East Meath, because we had no classrooms for our kids. And here you see the concerned parents of East Meath back in action again, demanding a Garda station that's fit for purpose, demanding policing 24/7 and not this ad hoc, once-in-a-blue moon approach. It's a disgrace and any child while he's getting his head kicked in, on our streets, that he's to wait for a Garda car to come from Ashbourne 33 kilometres away.
An Garda Siochana have been contacted for comment.
See Tuesday's paper for more