By Nicola Corless
PARTS of the Wild Atlantic Way tourist route were closed to facilitate an unofficial “modified car rally”, it emerged this week.
Gardaí have said they were “shocked” by a large, “planned and organised”, unofficial motoring event, which took place in the dead of night on roads between Lahinch and Ballyvaughan last month.
On March 7, approximately 70 cars converged on the promenade in Lahinch before travelling to the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin and on to Corkscrew Hill in Ballyvaughan, where the main event occurred.
Chief Superintendent John Kerin said that gardaí were shocked by what they saw on the night.
“Activities of what people call ‘boy racers’ have dwindled a lot in recent years because of the economy but in the last couple of months there has been an increase in activities and they have become more organised so we put an operation in place to tackle this,” he said.
“We had noticed ‘doughnuts’ on the roads in certain locations so our antennae were up,” he added.
“On the night, we were in a position to monitor what was going on and we were shocked by what we saw and the controlled and organised nature of it. This would have been a particularly big one and we were surprised by the amount of people involved and the organised, military nature of the event that took,” the Chief Superintendent outlined.
“It was late at night but in some parts people actually closed the roads, putting bollards across them to stop other motorists accessing them. They travelled from Lahinch to Lisdoonvarna, Doolin and Ballyvaughan and at various stages along this route they held other events. In some cases people placed cones in the middle of the road and drivers did ‘doughnuts’ around them. In other cases a person stood in the middle of the road and drivers did ‘doughnuts’ around them. We saw very dangerous driving activities,” he explained.
Chief Superintendent Kerin warned that this “negligent and dangerous” driving “couldn’t be allowed to continue.”
“A lot of parents buy these cars for their children or maybe insure them but they don’t know what they are doing. We don’t want to have to go and knock on their doors in the middle of the night and tell them someone has died,” he said.
“Often people involved in this type of activity are young people from decent and respectable families but their activities are not acceptable: they are dangerous; they impact negatively on people living in rural areas. People cannot take over the roads of Clare and decide they are going to do what they like, when they like,” he warned.
Parents, Chief Superintendent Kerin said, should be aware that they might find themselves financially liable for their children’s behavior.
“Often parents might insure the child as a named driver on their own policy but they might have a different car. They should read the documents carefully because they may not be covered if the young person is in an accident. I don’t think parents realise this and how much it could cost them in a civil action. They could lose their homes or farms,” he said.
As a result of intelligence gathered by Gardaí on the night of the event, searches were carried out on Wednesday morning at two houses. Eight people in total were arrested at various locations in the county.