Traveller caravans on the Curragh near Moore's Bridge, pictured on Saturday, June 4
By Paula Campbellpaula@leinsterleader.ie@paulacampbellLL
A law change may be needed to address the issue of illegal encampments on the Curragh Plains according to a Kildare South TD.
Martin Heydon has been in discussion with Gardai and Department of Defence officials in recent weeks as a number of encampments were dealt with.
“Illegal encampments on the Curragh are an annual occurrence, particularly at this time of the year, causing huge frustration and distress to residents in the area and those who use the Curragh Plains for recreational purposes,”he said.
“The Gardai and Council officials have been very responsive in dealing with the issues as they arose in recent weeks, but I believe we may need to see a strengthening of legislation in the area to ensure that the issues can be dealt with more fully.”
The current powers of the Gardai Siochana in this area as provided under the Criminal Justice Act allow individual issues to be dealt with on a short term basis.
However they do not give the gardai sufficient powers to ensure a longer term solution.
“It is a real waste of garda resources,” he added. “It is a finger wagging exercise.
“This issue will be addressed at the next meeting of the newly established Curragh Forum which allows the Gardai, Department of Defence officials and County Council officials to sit around the table together to address issues affecting the Curragh Plains.
“Should the forum recommend a review of current legislation in the area, I will work with Minister Paul Keogh to ensure it becomes a reality.”
According to Deputy Heydon the cost of maintaining the Curragh Plains area exceeded €300,000 last year which included the cost of cleaning up after illegal encampments.
“The Plains is one of our best resources in Kildare from a recreational, tourism and bloodstock point of view and we need to ensure it is protected and secured as much as possible.”
The Curragh is considered the oldest and most extensive tract of semi-natural grassland in the country, existing as an open plain for at least 2,000 years.
It continues to provide a working environment for three main users, The Defence Forces, the horse-racing and training industry and sheep owners.
The Government first approved the Curragh Task Force in 1998 to examine the ongoing threat to the integrity of the Plains.