Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Unruly mobs tarnish towns’ Halloween festivities

Despite the best efforts of community activists in delivering a first class Halloween festival in Crossmaglen on Tuesday last, the despicable antics of a few threatened to overshadow what turned out to be an excellent evening of family entertainment.

A small number of youths briefly wreaked havoc in areas of the town as they targeted people and properties with exploding fireworks.  Several rockets were directed towards Fire Service personnel who were answering a call in Ardross estate and, in one instance, an anxious resident, who had taken measures to prevent damage to his property, was arrested and cautioned by police.

It has also been reported that a teenager received facial injuries after being hit by a firework, and subsequently required hospital treatment.

Crossmaglen was just one of a number of towns where unruly mobs attacked Fire Service crews with fireworks.  Similar incidents were reported in Armagh and Keady, where a fire engine was damaged in an attack.  A local resident blamed gangs of youths who she said gathered “to terrorise the people throughout the town”.

NIFRS confirmed none of its firefighters were injured in the series of attacks.

Politicians condemned the behaviour of those responsible.

Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan said he shared the anger and disappointment of many within the community: “I would appeal for anyone involving themselves with such activity to reflect that it could be your family in need of rescue by emergency services and such disgraceful actions put lives at risk,” he said.

His party colleague Megan Fearon MLA, who attended the Halloween celebrations in Crossmaglen, said she was “deeply saddened” to learn of the attacks on the Fire Service and said they should be viewed as “not only violence against Emergency Service staff but also as an attack on the entire community”.

Condemning the attack on the Crossmaglen fire crew, SDLP councillor Pete Byrne said: “Those involved have no respect for the crew who put themselves in harms way to keep us safe.  Halloween is one of the busiest nights of the year which makes this attack even more disgraceful. Those involved in this attack should be ashamed of themselves.”

Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor also condemned the incidents of anti-social behaviour in Newtownhamilton and Crossmaglen.

“Fire Service personnel place themselves at risk day and daily to provide a vital emergency service to the local community.  It is despicable therefore that their safety was compromised as a consequence of the dangerous actions of youths who attacked them on Halloween night,” he said.

Referring to an incident in Newtownhamilton where a burning tyre was rolled down the main road, he added: “This was terribly reckless behaviour on the part of those individuals who perpetrated this act.  It is difficult to comprehend their mindset when it is abundantly clear their irresponsible actions placed the safety of residents and properties at serious risk.”