'Street Angels' for Omagh town centre

'Street Angels' for Omagh town centre

Omagh's Policing and Community Safety Partnership has secured £10,000 from the Department of Justice to set up a volunteer 'Street Angels' programme in the wake of the murder of Co Monaghan teenager Jason McGovern.

The 19-year-old was found dead in bed at about midday on New Year's Eve after being seriously assaulted in the Co Tyrone town in the early hours of that morning.

He had made it back to a friend's house in Emyvale, Co Monaghan, having been first attacked by a group of about five youths outside the Terrace Bar at John Street in Omagh.

When he was followed by at least three of the original group, Jason was again attacked as he tried to get a taxi outside the Weigh Inn at Kevlin Road.

Six people have been arrested in connection with his murder.

Community leaders in Omagh now plan to use so-called 'Street Angels' to make the town centre safer at night.

Trained volunteers will help people exiting local bars and nightclubs to get home safely.

Omagh Town Sinn Féin Councillor Sorcha McAnespy said: "They'll be out and about the streets, looking out for the young people who have maybe had one or two too many to drink, or have lost their bearings and are not sure where their friends are."

A lot of people want to give back to society and they are maybe parents themselves, who have got an interest in ensuring things go well for the young people.

Sorcha McAnespy

"The Angels will all have first aid training and there will be a defibrillator available to them. They'll be there to offer glasses of water, cups of tea and coffee, phones, if people are unable to contact their parents, or get lifts home, maybe arrange a taxi for them, possible offer suitable footwear to girls unable to walk any longer in high heels," Ms McAnespy added.

The announcement comes amid concerns about the level of street and alcohol-fuelled violence in the town.

It has emerged that police dealt with more than 20 reports of assaults, disorderly behaviour and criminal damage during a seven hour period on Friday 21 December.

Six police officers were injured and there were 14 arrests for public order and assault offences.
During several incidents police officers also used CS spray to quell disorder.

Omagh's Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) met on Thursday to address concerns.

Chairman Allan Rainey said: "The ball is in our court. The focus is on Omagh now and our PCSP. We will examine all aspects we feel are of interest to find out exactly what went wrong and to ensure that something similar does not happen again.

"We will not be shy in our investigations," the UUP councillor for West Tyrone said.

For its next meeting, the PCSP said it will invite the local business community - owners of pubs and nightclubs, fast-food take-aways and taxi companies.

It also plans to work with alongside the GAA, Young Farmers Association, IFA and Rugby clubs to educate young people about the dangers of excessive alcohol.

It says it recognises the importance of a healthy night-time economy, but wants to ensure that Omagh is a safe place to socialise.

"Everybody has got an interest in that," Ms McAnespy added.

The Street Angels initiative will initially be rolled out for one year.


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