Belfast Telegraph

Councils should show discretion to former criminals who wish to move homes – TD

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd said councils should show discretion in extreme cases where people with a criminal past want to move to start afresh.

A man injecting himself in the arm with drugs (Chris Young/PA)
A man injecting himself in the arm with drugs (Chris Young/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

Local authorities should show discretion to people who have been involved in drugs or anti-social behaviour, if they want to move to another council home if they want a fresh start.

Fine Gael TD for Co Louth, Fergus O’Dowd said, in exceptional cases, people who were involved in drugs or criminality in the past but want to start afresh should be allowed the chance to do so.

Mr O’Dowd said there has been a spate of gang and drug-related violence relating to a feud in Drogheda, a town in the constituency he represents.

The feud is a drugs turf war that between two criminal gangs based in Drogheda and Co Meath which began in July 2018 when a Drogheda-based drug dealer was shot.

Since the shooting, months of violence, arson attacks, beatings and attacks on homes have continued.

“I know of a case for example where somebody had been involved in drugs in some way and they need to make a fresh start and they can’t get out of the place they are living in,” he told an Oireachtas Housing Committee.

“Local authorities have to dictate to the local housing body who does or does not get a house.

“I don’t think discretion is shown now but I wouldn’t have a problem with discretion towards people with extreme circumstances,” he said.

Mr O’Dowd said people living in certain estates where the violence and who may have had a criminal past themselves but have reformed, should be allowed to move out of an area – particularly when their life is threatened.

“There are some people who have huge family problems or there are major anti social problems in their area,” he said.

“I do think that there might be room for more flexibility when those houses are given out.

“It does not happen very often but when it does happen, we will recognise the right of approved housing bodies to take cases like that into consideration and some flexibility should shown towards them,” he said.

“If  the guards are happy that the person in question will not be involved in criminal behaviour again then some discretion should be shown particularly if they want to move out of an area where most of their issues arose or if they want to have a fresh start away from criminality,” he said.

Mr O’Dowd stressed that authorities should only show discretion for extreme or exceptional cases so that only people who genuinely want to turn their lives around would benefit.

PA

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