THE media spotlight is on Rathkeale again this week as an ITV news crew arrived in town for background footage on the Traveller community which has connections with families facing eviction from the Dale Farm halting site in Essex.
But, as preparations continue for the evictions which are due to take place next Monday and are expected to affect 96 families, claims have been made that some of the families have houses in Rathkeale.
Reports appeared in various British and Irish newspapers earlier this week claiming that one man living at least occasionally in Dale Farm is the owner of a 33-unit housing estate in Ballywilliam which is not yet completed.
Another man, it is claimed, is connected to a Rathkeale Traveller family which has built dozens of houses near the entrance to the town – while the same report also suggests links between some Dale Farm families and another, unoccupied and controversial housing estate in Rathkeale.
As a result, some members of Basildon Council – which is leading the eviction from what they say is an illegal site on greenbelt land – are now calling for an investigation into these claims as the council is legally responsible for the homeless.
Since the notice to quit was issued in July, residents at Dale Farm have claimed they will be left homeless and have argued they do not want to be accommodated in houses or apartments but want culturally sensitive accommodation.
A spokesman for Travellers at Dale Farm, Richard Sheridan, who is president of the Gypsy Council UK, rejected newspaper accounts of home ownership. “I know people do not own the houses that reports are saying. The faces they are putting to the land are not correct.”
Mr Sheridan suggested that it was a ploy to discredit the 96 affected families. “Travellers have houses all over the world but that is not to say that people from Dale Farm own houses.”