*Photograph: Joe Buckley

AN ILLEGAL ENCAMPMENT has been removed from Sixmilebridge Train Station after two years and five months.

Up to four caravans had been based at the train station since the arrival of the encampment in February 2021 when they had moved from the grounds of St Senan’s RFC in Shannon. This figure had reduced to three by March and since June just one caravan remained and it was removed on Saturday morning.

Members of An Garda Síochána had an enforcement notice with them as they instructed the occupants of the encampment to leave. It is not known where the individuals have since relocated to.

Since March, Iarnród Éireann had instructed their drivers to proceed at caution through Sixmilebridge due to the presence of the encampment in what is called “a series of safety measures”. Delays of up to five to ten minutes have been experienced for all services at Sixmilebridge as a result but on some occasions the length of time has been greater.

Barriers had been placed at both platform ends by Iarnród Éireann while Clare County Council who owned the car park had placed restrictions at the entrance to the car park.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) admitted that the departure of the encampment comes as “huge relief”. He explained, “it was a public car park owned by Clare County Council which made it a bit more difficult to deal with, as a housing authority the Council has been working with them to sort it out. Enough was enough at this stage, Iarnród Éireann’s hands were tied, they had to cut back the speed of the trains coming in because it was a huge health and safety issue with the encampment and kids, the train station is not a place for kids to be running up and down by platforms”.

He added, “it is going to be a relief to a lot of people, huge relief. Everyone in Sixmilebridge felt they were breaking the law and they were,” he claimed. The Kilmurry representative continued, “people were annoyed that they were seen to be breaking the law, older people were afraid of the potential of intimidation so they weren’t using the station.

“With accommodation so tight in universities, we have a lot of students using the station and there is a lot more people commuting for college in Limerick and Galway, the mothers and fathers dropping and collecting their children had to make sure they were there before the train to pick up their son or daughter. People were afraid to park their cars there, I know a few elderly people who had to time their walk to get out there because they didn’t want to be there waiting for the train,” the former Leas Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council stated.

Services had been curtailed, he said as he pointed to the over a million people using the rail line from Limerick to Galway. “It wasn’t a nice environment for people using the train,” he commented of the encampment.

Repeat scenarios will not occur in Sixmilebridge, O’Callaghan flagged. “There is provisions put in to not allow caravans in there anymore, there will be a height restriction put in and blocks to stop in at the moment, it may be an inconvenience for buses who may need to service the station going forward. It is not a place for an illegal encampment, it is going on two and a half years”.

Local authority housing standards in Ireland were found to be “inadequate” and that the State’s treatment of Travellers is “violation of their rights,” a report by the Council of Europe published in 2021 found.

Activists within the Traveller community have previously told The Clare Echo that the families who had been living in Sixmilebridge had been on the housing list “for several years” and that they had never been offered accommodation by Clare County Council.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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