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Councillor Paul Murphy

Illegal encampments causing distress across Clare

CLARE County Councillors are looking for action on illegal encampments, which they say are causing enormous distress to residents in various parts of the county.

One motion at the Council’s February meeting, from Councillor Paul Murphy sought the establishment of a multi agency taskforce to deal with the issue, while another, signed by a number of members, called on the Government “to enforce the laws of the land that exist in relation to tackling the unauthorised occupation of public lands all over Ireland.”

The meeting heard that the occupants of these illegal encampments have caused a serious nuisance in several areas. “There’s an encampment in Ennis where there’s a generator that’s running morning, noon and night, that’s in a residential setting and it’s impacting on people’s wellbeing. Most of the encampments are out of town and to a certain degree they’re away from residents and impacting directly on people, but that case is very, very detrimental to people’s wellbeing at the moment,” said Councillor Murphy.

He also raised another encampment at Tiermaclane.”You have an encampment there for the last number of years, in a lovely quiet neighbourhood, 14 or 15 nice houses but unfortunately this land was acquired privately and there’s now an illegal encampment in there.”

Independent Gerry Flynn said national level action is required now. “We believe the health of communities in light of the current pandemic is being compromised by this activity. We believe a national protocol needs to be established, as local authorities, in my opinion, cannot deal with the issue in isolation.”

Fianna Fáil’s Clare Colleran Molloy said that she has put four motions down on the same issue over the last few years, and last year was informed that the legislation to tackle the encampments quickly is inadquate, while the judicial process around trespass is very cumbersome and prolonged.

She said that in some places the problem occurs again and again. ” A case in point is the Rocky Road roundabout where some two or three years ago families were housed, the areas were cleared, barriers erected, only for these areas to be breached and illegal encampments emerge again this past July.”

Allowing occupants of encampments to blatantly breach the law is not right, she feels.”It cannot be acceptable that those who pull up on public lands and trespass are to be given carte blanche. With the current homelessness crisis, what is there to prevent any person, be they Traveller or non Traveller from taking the law into their own hands and trespassing similarly? We know from empirical data that the Gardai are reluctant to remove unauthorised encampment residents, where the claim is made that the either the caravan or mobile home is ‘my home’. One wonders would this also be the Garda approach to non-Travellers.”

She said that the encampments “demonstrate to the rest of society that their residents don’t care that their actions are unlawful.”

She said the problem needs to be a focus for national politicians. “What I do find particularly glaring is the deafening silence from our national politicians to tackle this constructively and collaboratively with Traveller representative bodies.”

Councillor Shane Talty said that in one instance in the Ennistymon area, residents have been very severely affected by one of the encampments. “You have elderly residents that can’t receive deliveries of fuel, Gas lorries can’t access the properties, they’ve actually had to change the heating systems in houses over the last month. You’re dealing with walking past rubbish, waste, environmental issues. To compound the matter the HSE have insisted that on site sanitation was provided, which to my mind has only confirmed the status of the site as something more long term.”

He said that with the HSE involvement reinforcing the presence of the encampment the State is “trampling on the rights of existing residents” which he described as “a fairly farcical scenario”.

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.