Research finds children as young as three being used by criminal gangs to promote a culture of fear and intimidation in Limerick.

The research, carried out by UCC (University College Cork) sociologist Dr Niamh Hourigan looks at the experiences of residents living in some of the most disadvantaged housing estates in Limerick.

The study discovered that children as young as three are being used by criminal gangs to perpetuate a culture of fear. Due to their age many are immune to prosecution in the eyes of the law, and regularly engaged in,

Quite small scale acts of antisocial behaviour, but had a very significant role in kind of creating an atmosphere or a climate of fear in these communities.

Parish priest of Southill Father Pat Hogan has seen many elderly residents cruelly intimidated and forced to leave the community where they have lived for decades,

We have witnessed people going out crying, we’ve known that some of them died shortly afterwards, heartbroken, that they’ve lost their homes.

Measures are being taken by the Limerick Regeneration Project to address this issue. Chief executive of the project Brendan Kenny says it will take years, but the problems are contained to specific areas in the city,

The important thing to say is that it’s not widespread, there certainly are pockets, and in some pockets it’s quite severe.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 29 June 2009. The reporter is Cathy Halloran.