Ronnie McConnell: 'Everything has come over my wall at me'

VACANT tower blocks in Dublin's Ballymun are being turned into drug squats and launching pads from which to shower newly built family homes with missiles.

Local representatives say the matter is getting out of control and residents have no idea when the remaining blocks are to be demolished as part of the local regeneration project.

Ronnie McConnell, a special-needs resident who lives in the shadow of the Coultry flats, said his double-awardwinning garden was destroyed by materials and paint cans thrown from the flats.

He and other residents are now living in a constant firing line, particularly when gangs tear out fittings and fixtures from recently vacated units and shower the houses below.

One youngster was hit in the head with a cider bottle which crashed through his bedroom window.

"I have been out in my garden taking up bottles and bits of beds and shopping trolleys. Everything has come over my wall at me," said McConnell.

"A lot of the flats are vacant but they are breaking into them and whatever is left in the flat is what comes over the walls.

"My son said to me 'why don't you wear a motorbike helmet out there' and he was serious."

He said he had given up trying to fight Ballymun Regeneration over anti-social behaviour and has even stopped gardening.

"I had plants from all over the world. I get cuttings from everywhere and I bring them home and see if they can work," he said.

"It was just a white wash [when paint was thrown into his garden]. My wife is from Thailand and I grow vegetables for her because they eat salad every day. I felt like crying."

Ballymun Regeneration said it was aware of the problem and had taken measures to combat it, including increased garda patrols, the cordoning- off of certain areas and the removal of materials from vacant blocks. A €2.5m CCTV system has also been put in place.

All of the remaining towers – 12 eight- storey blocks and the 15-storey Plunkett Tower – are scheduled for demolition by the beginning of 2013.

There are two blocks left in the Coultry area – one has 20 families among a total of 96 flats, the other is abandoned and in the process of being fenced off and 'soft-stripped' of material. It is due to be torn down after Christmas.

Local councillor Bill Tormey said the situation remained serious.

"A female guard had her jaw broken badly in an assault down there outside the flats. I don't know if she is back at work but she was off for a long time," he said.

"Obviously, the guards would be a bit intimidated to go in.

"The remaining condemned flats haven't been demolished yet and every time they are boarded up people are breaking into them to use them as drug squats.

"The conditions are terrible; the place is littered with graffiti and there have been gunshots discharged."