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A general view of a Traveller caravan at Sixmilebridge Station.

Sixmilebridge encampment ‘taking the mick’, JPC told

CLARE’S Garda chief has promised a “proactive” approach to an illegal encampment at the Station Yard in Sixmilebridge.

The matter was raised at this week’s meeting of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) by Councillor PJ Ryan. The Independent representative said there was considerable concern because those involved had turned down an offer of Council accommodation, and were refusing to move on until they are provided with housing at an alternative location of their choice.

Deputy Cathal Crowe expressed his annoyance at the situation, saying it threatened the integrity of the social housing system. “At this stage, they are absolutely taking the mick,” he said. “They have obviously travelled from somewhere, during Covid, and despite the travel restrictions. They now say they can’t travel back to the UK, because of Covid, and that the Council has to house them as a solution.

“It is important to say that Travellers have the right to housing. Everyone respects that. However, there are a lot of people on the housing list for seven or eight years and they need to know that others can’t just rock up to the Council and say, ‘House me’.

“We need to maintain the integrity of the system. I know this is a delicate situation, but I would encourage the Gardaí and the Council to move this along as quickly as possible. Long term applicants for housing must see that the system is fair.”

Councillor Ryan noted that the encampment had been in situ for “a considerable time”. “We are getting a lot of stick over this,” he said. “People are pointing out that if they parked on a double yellow line for that long, they’d be towed away. There are a number of older people living in this area and there is noise and disturbance created at all hours.”

Chairperson of the JPC, Councillor John Crowe supported Councillor Ryan, saying he was very conscious of the issue. The fact that the encampment had moved from Shannon was cited as a source of annoyance by Councillor Alan O’Callaghan. “There is a lot of concern locally over that,” he said. “It’s very frustrating to see that they were moved on from Shannon fairly quickly and now they’re in Sixmilebridge. There is a postman delivering letters there now. That doesn’t exactly reassure the public.”

Responding to members’ comments, Chief Superintendent Seán Colleran said the force was very aware of the situation. “A proactive approach is being taken to this,” he said. “Summons have been issued for trespass and the matter is before the courts. The issue of housing is outside our control, but we will co-operate with other agencies. We have increased our checkpoints to deal with anyone who may be drawn there.”

Concerns have also arisen about access to the railway station and its car park and the chief superintendent said Gardaí have discussed the situation with Irish Rail. “We have been in touch with Iarnród Éireann,” he said. “We are aware of the issues. Our hands are tied to a certain extent, but we can increase our policing profile. We are also very conscious of the vulnerable and elderly people who live in this area and have directed community Gardaí to engage with them.

“We will absolutely continue our proactive approach. If there is anywhere that attracts people who shouldn’t be there, we will up our patrols. What is within our gift is policing. Housing people is outside of our control, but we will work with partner agencies. There are certain restrictions in place due to Covid, but it is my belief that these will be lifted shortly.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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