Belfast Telegraph

Grieving mum fears lives are at risk after Street Angels safety scheme is disbanded

 

By Victoria Leonard

A mother who lost her son during a one-punch attack says she is "devastated" and fears lives could be lost after a scheme which was launched in his memory ended.

Kathleen McBrearty's 28-year-old son Darren died after being attacked outside a bar in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in August 2013.

It was the second one-punch death in the town in two years, after 19-year-old Jason McGovern died on New Year's Eve 2012.

Christopher McLean, of Main Street, Gortin, was jailed for 18 months for manslaughter in November 2014 over Darren's death.

In November 2013, the community came together to launch Omagh Street Safe Project, dubbed Street Angels, to ensure no more young lives were lost.

Up to 70 volunteers began patrolling the streets at weekends, assisting vulnerable people.

The project was originally funded by the Department for Social Development's Neighbourhood Renewal Programme.

When this ceased in March 2016, Fermanagh and Omagh council continued to back the project by providing administration support and co-ordinating personnel.

However, earlier this week, the council voted against funding a new £25,580 co-ordinator post for the scheme.

It followed a decision in March to defer a recommendation to close down the project for a month. With volunteers unwilling to assume responsibility for running the project, it has now ended.

A petition calling on the council to reverse its decision had received over 700 signatures by last night.

"I'm totally disgusted at this decision," Kathleen said.

"The Street Angels scheme was a comfort to me, as I don't want any other parents going through what I went through.

"There will be more lives lost because the Street Angels aren't there. I think the council should have made this scheme a priority and found the money. The health and safety of very young, vulnerable people is so important."

Her daughter Michelle McGirr said she was "gutted" at the council's decision.

"The scheme did a lot of good for the town, and people are shocked that it has closed down," she said.

"I'm devastated by the news.

"Perhaps if the Street Angels had been there for my brother they could have saved his life.

"Street Angels was my brother Darren's legacy, it was the one good thing to come out of his death, and when myself and other family members took part it helped us cope.

"Darren will still live on in our lives, his memory will always be with us, but it would have been nice to see the Street Angels go further than it did.

"No-one else should have to go through what we have went through as a family."

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council was contacted, but no response had been received at the time of going to press.

The council previously said that volunteers had "refused to engage with the council" and the project had been "supported by £3,000 from Fermanagh and Omagh Policing and Community Partnership plus staff time".

It added: "This was never a council project and the safety of public on the streets is not a council responsibility."

Belfast Telegraph

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