**Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) walks towards Gardaí in Sixmilebridge. Photograph: John Mangan
ILLEGAL ENCAMPMENTS and speeding are two of the biggest issues facing the Superintendent now responsible for East Clare, according to the county’s first citizen.
Elected members of the Killaloe Municipal District received a presentation on the new policing model in An Garda Síochána from Superintendent Ollie Baker who is responsible for the East Clare and Tipperary North Community Engagement functional area.
It follows the amalgamation of the Clare and Tipperary Garda Divisions, the headquarters of which is based in Ennis. Mayor of Clare, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) remarked to Supt Baker following his presentation, “whether you can bring Tipperary and Clare together on the GAA field is another thing” to which Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) quipped, “he did enough to disrupt it”.
A former Chairman of Clare GAA, Cllr Cooney somehow managed to draw a parallel between the county’s breakthrough to win the All-Ireland hurling title in 1995 and the new model. “I commend you, the players and the management for the achievements in the 1990s, it was something we thought we would never achieve but it was a change and that is the word today”.
Following a meeting with Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee (FG) in the past fortnight, Cllr Cooney was hopeful more Gardaí would be employed in Co Clare “going forward, I had a positive meeting with her and I am hopeful it will be looked at”.
There was “a serious chat” between Cllr Cooney and Minister McEntee on the illegal encampment in Sixmilebridge, he advised the meeting. “It needs to be looked at in a big way, it is upsetting people’s lives, they have bought houses in a private estate but the illegal encampment is causing concern and worry, it is not good enough, it should never happen in a public or private housing development or on the site of a road”.
Speeding was another issue flagged by the O’Callaghans Mills man. “We’re all guilty of speeding through villages and there is only one way of teaching us the lesson, it needs to be looked at. We’re all well aware of the campaign to reduce the speed limits, your input into that will be very important, my belief is every road won’t be done but we’re all well aware that the speed limits do need to come down”.
Director of Service for Social Development, Anne Haugh told the meeting that were reliant on An Garda Síochána to assist them with the management of estates, housing and illegal encampments. She said it was “imperative” that working relationship continued under the new model. “I am assured by what you have said that there will be no change in how we do business, the two sides working together are the most effective”.
Supt Baker told the meeting he has “a lot of experience” in the area of illegal encampments. “It is extremely challenging and complex to deal with, the only solution I can offer is through engagement, prevention is definitely better than the cure and being aware of what is required to make places not feasible for encampments has to be part of our planning and from an environmental design aspect that our crime prevention officer is available to the local authority as another opinion”.
He continued, The law and legislation provided can’t be flouted by people and not put it in such an area that the area is flouted”. He said with legal proceedings ongoing it was best not to go into specific cases.
On the subject of speeding, Supt Baker said he formed part of a working group which examined the speed limits nationally. “The amount of people involved in road safety amazed me, the Guards only play a small part which is enforcement,” he admitted. “Talking and cooperation between all the areas is important, we’re aware of where the hotspots are between us and then we shut them down”.
With roadworks ongoing in Killaloe, he acknowledged that certain sections are becoming very busy arising from a diversion. “The need to get out ahead of vans and lorries is causing a lot of disquiet, putting a Garda out there is all we can do at the moment but we’re exploring more options, we are educating, telling and warning people with the different mechanisms to slow people down, if they pass over a yellow line they slow down it hits a trigger in their head that they need to slow down and then they slow down every day”.