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Community group defends right to drive sex offenders’ clinic out of south Dublin neighbourhood

A direct action community group has defended their tactics in driving a sex offenders’ clinic out of Sallynoggin, Co. Dublin.

The community action group found out through social media two weeks ago that group therapy services for sex offenders were being held in the evenings.

The service was being run by Dr Patrick Randall, who is a clinical and forensic psychologist with experience in the provision of therapeutic and assessment services to those who have committed sexual offences.

"It was dealing with contact and non-contact male sex offenders, mainly male sex offenders like child abusers and rapists," said group member Steven Bennett.

Mr Bennett told Liveline on RTÉ Radio 1 that they locked people out of the clinic in order to stop them from receiving therapy in the local building.

He said there are lots of schools locally and the group felt a moral responsibility to reduce the risk.

"This is a residential area. There's kids all over the place. We were concerned, we were afraid. We were concerned for the kids.

[quote]I think the biggest question facing us all was that if we didn't take action then would that not make us partially responsible for what the possible outcome was? There was a really strong desire to deal with this as quickly as possible.[/quote]

The protest group picketed the premises all day for seven days. Mr Bennett said there was never any aggression at any stage from their protest. He said they also ensured no one was inside before they locked the building's gates.

"A small direct action group decided to put bicycle locks on the gates of the building," he said.

"It was before there was anyone in the building. That was one of the priorities of the direct action group, to ensure that there was no one in the building. It was done at a time there was no one in the building."

The gardaí arrived at the premises to cut the locks off.

Joe Duffy said he understood the therapists were "deeply distressed about what happened".

[quote]My understanding is that they were very, very frightened. They say there was a group of protesters. They believed water charge protesters would 'bust in' from other parts of the country.[/quote]

"We made it clear that we didn't have a problem with the staff," Mr Bennett said. "Everyone tried their utmost to not be disrespectful, not to upset anyone. The community did a really good job of everyone keeping the head.

"[The staff] are obviously trying to do a good thing, there's no question about that. But with that building, 30 steps from one school, 60 steps from another school, 100 steps from a summer school for kids. It's a residential area, it's not convenient."

The community action group later met with Dr Randall in the Noggin Inn in Sallynoggin in a meeting organised by local councillor Cormac Devlin.

Hundreds of people also signed a petition calling for the centre to leave the area.

The Forensic Psychological Services clinic eventually agreed to leave the building and find somewhere else to use for their therapy sessions.

John Lonergan, a former governor in Mountjoy Prison, described the incident as "sort of sad."

"A lot of it is based on fear and anxiety and false information," he said.

"It's very easy to see where the protest would come from but the other side of the coin, from my experience, is the first stage of recovery from any difficulty in life is to do something about it and that's the very positive thing about the group therapy and the programme that was being provided in Sallynoggin.

[quote]These people were going there voluntarily. They were people who obviously had decided that they needed help and they were going to experts who were able to provide that help, assistance and support for them.[/quote]

"The programme was responding to people requesting help," he added.

Listen to the discussion in full here: