Rathkeale: CAB, gardaí and council officials made visits to caravans
A JOINT operation between the Criminal Assets Bureau, An Garda Síochána and Limerick City and County Council resulted in ‘visits’ to as many as 35 Traveller families in a County Limerick town last week.
The visits to caravans in Rathkeale started early, with some families reporting that there were knocks on the door from 7am last Thursday, September 28.
The day of action, believed to have been organised by gardaí, is part of an overall inter-agency crackdown ahead of Christmas in Rathkeale.
The Christmas phenomenon, which sees hundreds of people come back into the town from November to January, has been described by local representatives in the past as ‘chaotic’ and ‘unruly’, because of the increase in traffic and public order issues.
The focus on Rathkeale this year comes on foot of requests from exasperated members of the local community as well as council representatives, according to a well placed source.
CAB officers work in Rathkeale throughout the year in an attempt to stifle criminal gangs, and last Christmas they conducted a raid which yielded a rhino cup, watches and cash.
Council staff conducted checks of the caravans with a view to getting information on those who were parked illegally. Parking on public roads represents a road traffic offence, while caravans parked for an extended period of time on private land could be in breach of planning regulation.
Caravans in the yards of properties leased from the local authority would be in breach of the lease agreement.
Some of the families visited will be allowed to stay where they are, if they have resided there for longer than seven years.
During the visits, people were told that they were going to get notices.
The occupants were mainly young families with children, but those visited also included single parents, widows and pregnant mothers.
The “heavy-handed approach” has prompted upset and anger among members of the Travelling community in Rathkeale. Last Friday, 60 Travellers held a meeting in the town to discuss the situation in the aftermath.
There was anger that so many gardaí were brought along to confront widows, young families and people who had no criminal records.
Many of the families will now have to be moved.
“This is a problem that has been growing for 50 years now,” one man said. “The planning for Rathkeale hasn’t had any consideration for the situation that Travellers come back with caravans. Traveller-appropriate accommodation would be the way to go and save a lot of the free-for-all that we have now.
“Where do the occupants of 35 caravans go? The housing department can’t accommodate them. So they have to park somewhere else illegally. The structure and planning of the town hasn’t been adequate.”