*Bill Slattery. Photograph: John Mangan
SOME TRAVELLERS IN ENNISTYMON are “untouchable”, a local representative has claimed while accusing An Garda Síochána of turning a blind eye to criminal damage in the North Clare town.
Two men were arrested after extensive damage was caused to numerous homes and vehicles in Deerpark, Ennistymon at the end of August. A firearm was discharged in the incident which also resulted in the hospitalisation of a man in his fifties. The arrested duo, both prominent boxers were not charged for their involvement.
Earlier this month at a separate location, a man was hospitalised with non-life threatening injuries, he had been knocked unconscious and suffered two brain injuries and remains in hospital.
Bill Slattery of the Lahinch Development Association highlighted Ennistymon’s ongoing criminal activity at a meeting of the Clare Joint Policing Committee (JPC) this week.
He questioned if any charges were pending following the scenes in Deerpark in August to which Chief Superintendent Colm O’Sullivan said investigations were ongoing with further evidence to be collated but he didn’t give a commitment that a file would be issued to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Following the extensive damage to the properties in St John’s Park, senior executive officer in the housing section of Clare County Council, Padraig MacCormaic confirmed that the local authority have not paid a penny on repairs caused by the attacks, a statement that was welcomed by Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF).
Speaking to The Clare Echo, Slattery commented, “The feeling is that it what happened was a disgrace, the Ennistymon people are saying the area is getting a bad name and that it was getting worse than Rathkeale and out of control. The people are up in arms and feel that something has to be done about the Travellers in Ennistymon, it is getting out of hand”.
He accused An Garda Síochána of “turning a blind eye” to the August incident. “There is a lack of Garda resources in Ennistymon but the Gardaí are not present and are turning a blind eye to it, some of the Travellers seem to be untouchable in Ennistymon”. Chief Supt O’Sullivan disputed this view at Monday’s meeting and felt Gardaí were controlling the situation to which Slattery responded that he would need to further engage with the people of Ennistymon to get a different viewpoint.
Slattery who is a Fine Gael candidate for next year’s local elections and a former county councillor noted that €1.73m was spent on the development of St John’s Park when it was built in 2003. “It got the award for the best traveller halting site in Clare that time under the traveller housing scheme but it is now a ghetto”.
Perpetrators of the August attacks are well-known, Bill said. “I don’t think there will be any consequences about this, the way he (O’Sullivan) huffed and puffed I don’t think there will be any charges. It sends out a very bad message to law abiding citizens in Ennistymon who are totally fed up because some people don’t have to abide by the law on traffic or anything”.
A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána told The Clare Echo, “This investigation remains ongoing and a file will be prepared for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions”.
Surrounding areas are also becoming frustrated with publicans in Lahinch taking a joint approach to try stamp out incidents in their premises. “It has gone totally out of control in Ennistymon and the people in Lahinch are also fed up,” Bill added.
Meanwhile, similar frustrations were voiced by Cllr Ann Norton (IND) who felt Garda resources were being exhausted dealing with issues in the Traveller community. She said of the engagement at JPC meetings, “I feel that at times that we’re getting stats, we’re getting a broad figure of what is happening across the county but we get very little detail that you come out of the meeting wondering did you actually get any detail that is of benefit or that reassures us that the public are protected. We do know there is a lack of Gardaí on the ground, we know the events that happened in Dublin last week could happen anywhere and we don’t have the Gardaí on the ground for something like that to happen.
“I feel an awful lot of our resources are going on drug related crimes within a community that seems to be continuous and I can’t understand why it has not been stopped when they know who is dealing within the Clare area and why it is continuing to happen, I know there is a process but I look at Ballymaley which is on my doorstep and they are continuously raiding Ballymaley on a weekly basis, it is unbelievable to see it but again I don’t know as a resident within Barefield or as a public representative whether or not they are achieving anything, it is very frustrating when you see it happening so often and there doesn’t seem to be a resolution”.
Cllr Michael Begley (IND) was of a similar viewpoint. “The figures in a sense are misleading. Experience would tell us the same crowd are doing the same thing all the time”.
Pavee Point were contacted for comment but had not responded at the time of going to print.