Omagh public meeting over assaults in County Tyrone town
- 17 September 2013
- From the section Northern Ireland
About 80 people have attended a public meeting in Omagh, County Tyrone, to try to find a solution to the growing number of assaults in the town.
Two men have died in the last nine months, following one-punch assaults.
Members of both of their families were at Monday night's meeting, to hear police and local representatives describe what action they are taking.
They also heard suggestions from the audience about what could be done to tackle the problem.
The meeting was organised by local woman Catherine Logue, under the banner of the 4-S group - Support Safe Street Socialising.
"It's terribly changed from when I was growing up," said Ms Logue.
"We just went about our nights and had a bit of craic. We still had a few drinks, but it didn't get to the stage where you just went out every night, looking for something as untoward as a fight to happen."
It was not a large scale fight that led to the death of Darren McBrearty in the town last month.
He had gone out for drinks with some friends one Sunday afternoon. He was punched once and fell.
His mother, Kathleen, was told 98% of his brain was dead by the time he fell to the ground.
"It's like a dream," she said.
"You keep think you're going to wake up from it and Darren's going to come through the door.
"Now, the only consolation I get is going out to (my) wee fella's grave every day.
"I don't want to see any more of this violence going on in the town, where another mother has to lose her son the way I lost mine. I miss him so much."
An 18-year-old man has been charged with the manslaughter of Darren McBrearty.
Representatives of the local Police and Community Safety Partnership told Monday's meeting that making Omagh a safe place to socialise was a priority. The partnership is launching a Street Safe scheme in November.
"That will be, initially anyway, on Friday and Saturday nights," said partnership co-ordinator Sandra Armstrong.
"Volunteers will be out on the town with the (scheme) co-ordinator, based near the public services centre, providing practical support.
"We will have first-aiders. There may be young people refused entry to pubs, who have nowhere to go, who've perhaps come by bus or don't know the town, and we'll be able to assist with those young vulnerable people as well."
The audience also made their own suggestions. These ranged from a dedicated taxi rank and taxi wardens, to resurrecting a local night bus service and creating pedestrian zones in parts of the town centre on weekend nights.
A number of people signed up for further information on volunteering for the Street Safe scheme. One of them was Adrian Monaghan.
"We need to focus on what changes need to be made to stop "angry young man" syndrome," he said.
"The solution is basically respecting one another."
Training sessions for potential Street Safe volunteers will be held in the town over the coming weeks.