24 November 2005 Edition
Portglenone residents terrorised
A drug-dealing gang has brought misery to residents in an estate in the North Antrim village of Portglenone over the last 18 months through a campaign of anti-social behaviour.
Houses and cars have been attacked in the Smyth Crescent and West Road area of the village. On one occasion thugs attempted to torch the home of a grandmother living on her own.
Now residents are standing up to the gang and last Thursday 17 November they held a public meeting where they aired their grievances and agreed to set up a residents' committee. Sinn Féin Councillor Monica Digney, who represents the area on Ballymena Council, has thrown her weight behind the residents.
Last weekend An Phoblacht's Peadar O Faoláin met residents specifically targeted by the gang. Ann, a grandmother living on her own has taken the brunt of the abuse. The gang stole and burned out her car 18 months ago.
Last July the gang targeted her home in a series of attacks. The most serious was on Friday 27 October when, in an attempt to burn her house down while she was in it, flammable liquid was left in her back garden near the oil tank.
Four nights later, on Hallowe'en, members of the gang tried to force a lighting firework through her letterbox and when confronted one man tried to stick the firework in her face.
Ann has been directly threatened by the gang for contacting the media and a neighbour was targeted because he was willing to make a witness statement to the PSNI.
The PSNI know who was behind the firework attack on Ann but have not dealt with the anti-social activities of the gang. Frustration over this lack of action prompted Ann and her neighbours to organise last Thursday's meeting. "We were left out on a limb," says Ann as she explained that the community decided not to invite the PSNI as they had done nothing about the gang's activities, which includes drug pushing.
Ann was at pains to explain that the meeting was organised by the residents and had no political agenda. She was hurt that the DUP tried to undermine the residents' initiative by saying the meeting was designed to exclude members of the unionist and Protestant community.
A man delivering leaflets publicising the meeting was assaulted by gang members. The man who wishes to remain anonymous was taken to hospital and had a number of staples inserted in a head wound and suffered a hand wound as he defended himself. However, he feels lucky not to have been more seriously injured as during the attack his assailant shouted to his accomplice: "Bring the swords", at which an accomplice took two long-bladed knives from a car. But at this others who were leafleting in the area returned and the thugs drove off.