Clare County Council will “not be found wanting” when it comes to dealing with illegal encampments, the Chief Executive of the local authority has stated.

Unauthorised encampments are situated at four locations across the county, Council officials confirmed. Three caravans and one mobile home are occupied at Kilbreakan in Doora, no section 10 noticed has been issued for the site. Notices have been issued for residents at the Kilbreckan Bog Road which has two mobile homes and three empty caravans, Clare Technology Park with one mobile home and two caravans along with Cahercalla where there is four mobile homes.

From January 2016 to February 2020, section 10 notices were sent to the residents of 16 different illegal encampments in the county. Nine of these have moved, two have moved to alternative places, one has been housed and another put into the homeless service. One case is currently before the High Court while another has stayed at the encampment despite the notice. Thirteen of the encampments were based in Ennis, one in Roslevan and two in Barefield.

Such detail came to light following a motion by Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) at the March meeting of the County Council. He requested information on the individuals and families living in illegal encampments in Clare, his attempts to find out the “locations and population figures” was also left unanswered by Council officials.

Director of Service, Anne Haugh in a written response stated, “We are working to provide housing solutions for those on our housing list in need of housing”.

A multi-agency group is required to see progress evolve on the matter, Cllr Murphy maintained. The Clarecastle representative noted that people were “afraid to walk into town” from Rockmount because of “loose dogs and horses” at Ashline. “I constantly hear it from officials that the legislation isn’t strong enough”.

“Any development on private land is an enforcement issue,” senior executive officer, Siobhan McNulty highlighted. She stated that individual sites could not be discussed. “There is a number of pieces of legislation on which illegal encampments can be dealt with, we are confident that what we have in place is good and strong, I accept that it does take time”.

Reports of loose horses at Ashline would be followed up on, Director of Service, Carmel Kirby outlined.

Cllr Murphy added, “I’m like a dog with a bone, I’ve got the bone and I won’t let go of it too easily”. He called on Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to sign some roads over to local farmers to prevent areas becoming homes to illegal encampments.

Chief Executive of the local authority, Pat Dowling flagged that the powers afforded to County Councils when it comes to illegal encampments “are the same in every county”. He added, “Clare County Council doesn’t have the luxury of patrolling every piece of open space on a 24 hour basis and we don’t wish to do that. I accept wholeheartedly that it is a complex issue. Clare County Council will not be found wanting on it, we will deal with it legally and in a way that doesn’t put our staff at risk”.

Across the country, illegal encampment residents have highlighted the difficulty in adhering to COVID-19 health guidelines due to a lack of running water on sites.

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