Fr Dermott Harkin speaks out over drunken gangs in Derry

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Media captionFr Dermott Harkin is a parish priest based in St Mary's parish church in Creggan

A priest who said he is "terrified" by gangs of youths drinking outside his home in Londonderry has urged people to speak out about anti-social behaviour.

Fr Dermott Harkin said groups of up to 20 young people have been gathering in a laneway close to his parochial house in the Creggan area of the city.

He said they have persistently kept him awake at night by "screaming and shouting", sometimes until dawn.

He spoke out about problems in the estate during Mass at the weekend.

'Tortured'

"Where it becomes more sinister is where there is an element of drinking and a certain amount of drug-taking," Fr Harkin told BBC Radio Foyle.

"There was one night that it went on from half past two until half past six in the morning."

The priest, from St Mary's parish church in Creggan, said he would have to considering leaving the parochial house on Fanad Drive if he could not get to sleep at night.

"It's not just me," he added. "I suppose I'm closest to it, because the lane runs beside the church and the accompanying play park where it has been happening.

"But people have been saying that they too have been tortured with this type of scenario and it's dreadfully unfair.

'Last resort'

"One person said to me that it seems to be a feature of Creggan life.

"That may well be true, but I think that people who are on the receiving end of this type of intimidatory scenario, they should speak out against it, because it's not right."

Fr Harkin said the anti-social behaviour had continued on an almost nightly basis for a fortnight, and appeared to coincide with warmer weather.

Image caption The priest said he was "terrified" by groups of teenagers who gathered to drink and takes drugs in a laneway close to his parochial house in in Fanad Drive

He said he had considered leaving his home but that the decision would be a "last resort".

"I would be very reluctant to leave the parochial house," he said, "because a priest's place is in his parochial house, but if it came to it, what else could I do?"

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesperson confirmed that officers received reports of anti-social behaviour in Fanad Drive on Monday 31 March and Friday 4 April.

"Police have increased patrols in this area and will enforce the law when criminal or anti-social behaviour is detected," the spokesperson added.

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