PARISHIONERS attending a Christmas carol service at a city centre church got a nasty shock when they returned to find their cars clamped.
The elderly, youngsters and the disabled were all involved in a two-hour stand off with clampers who levied fines on seven cars in a car park near St Joseph’s Church, O’Connell Avenue.
Seven car owners were asked to pay a €100 release fee each, with parish priest Fr Tom Mangan stepping in to pay half the fine for those less able to pay.
Parishioners have described the action as a “mean” act so close to Christmas.
But the owner of the clamping firm has hit back, saying: “Private property is private property.”
The car park, at Wellington Terrace, is owned by a well-known Limerick business family. Local church-goers have claimed that parking out of hours has never been an issue.
Business owners have countered that they are “as vulnerable as the people who have been clamped”, with cars taking spaces for customers.
Rita, 65, who has been a member of the St Joseph’s Choir for over 20 years, said: “I was really annoyed. The Celtic Tiger may have gone, but the greed is still there. It was a devastating thing to happen. It was freezing, and all we wanted to do was get home. It is not even about the money really – it was the attitude.”
Fellow parishioner Des Hayes said: “I would like to know what joy people get out of sending clampers out to clamp people’s cars. It was a nice gift on Christmas week, after attending what was a magnificent choral evening to find the event was going to cost you €100.”
A third angry resident – who did not wish to be identified – added: “I have been parking here at night for ages and never had any problem. It was really mean to do this, there was no warning.”
Paddy Ryan, of clamping firm PJR Services, said: “I can understand their frustration, but it is private property.
“They would not like someone to come in and park in their drive, and go away leaving their car there. Private property is private property 24/7.”
One businessman - who did not wish to be identified- added: “We are as vulnerable as the ordinary people who have been clamped. They allow brief customer parking, but this is it.”
Fr Mangan said: “It was just unfortunate this happened.
“We need to be more aware of areas around our church where cars are subject to being clamped.”
More than 300 people overall attended the service in St Joseph’s, which saw choirs from local schools and churches perform Christmas carols.