A meeting to attempt to resolve the impasse involving members of the Travelling community and property owners and local residents in an area of Ballyshannon was due to take place yesterday evening.
According to Hugh Friel of the Donegal Traveller’s Project, he expected a meeting to take place on Monday evening, but this newspaper was unable to confirm from council sources if such a meeting would indeed take place yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, local residents told the Democrat/People’s Press that they now expected the Council to go a legal route and possibly seek an injunction to bar the Travellers families from using the Station Road area for parking.
For almost a week there has been an at times tense stand-off for several days in Ballyshannon.
The locals mounted an all night blockade on Thursday night and on Friday to stop Travellers re-locating their caravans near Ballyshannon Livestock Mart at Station Road in the town.
Gardai were on duty to monitor the situation but there were no reports of any breaches of Public Order.
The locals are determined to stop the Travellers from returning to the Station Road area citing their presence there as an ongoing health hazard.
The Travellers had sighted three caravans at or near Ballyshannon Livestock Mart for several months but on Wednesday of last week left that location, moving to a roadside location on the main Ballyshannon to Donegal town road at Coolcholly.
The Coolcholly location is the subject of a standing injunction taken by Donegal County Council and it is understood that the gardai advised the Travellers to move from this location because they were in breach of the standing injunction.
However, when the Traveller family attempted to return to Station Road on Thursday evening circa 5pm their access to the area where they had been parked was blocked by vans, tractors and other vehicles and they were prevented from returning to the location.
Some or all of the vehicle owners remained all night and a stand off continued with local gardai keeping a watching brief.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat local resident John Patton said, “This has been an ongoing situation now for the last six months and it is just getting worse with rubbish strewn all over the place.
“Cllr. Eugene Dolan said, “This family has been given enough chances by both Donegal County Council and the Health Service Executive, the people of this town have just had enough and I personally have had enough.
“It is ironic in that if a member of the settled community threw rubbish all over the place in a similar fashion, there would be litter wardens and court summonses on their door steps within days.
On Friday gardai. the Donegal Travellers Project and Donegal County Council staff met to broker a solution to the issue and at time of going to press the impasse remains unresolved with the caravans parked on the roadway.
Hugh Friel, Donegal Travellers Project:
“We want to resolve this situation not only for the family but for the community of Ballyshannon. I have been in consultation with the family throughout the weekend and I want to see this situation resolved once and for all. This family want to remain in Ballyshannon and I hope they can be accommodated.
Asked to comment on the untidy state of the place at the weekend, Mr. Friel said, “The family had tidied the place up over the weekend and put it all into plastic bags but whether dogs got at them or what, the rubbish was spread all over the place again.
“I am meeting with Donegal Co. Council in the hope that common sense can prevail and that we can sort it out but I feel that they will take the hardline on this and go for an injunction.
“This will not sort the matter as it will only force the family to move to another location and then the whole process will start again. We should be trying to resolve this once and for all.”
John Barron; Chairman of Ballyshannon Mart:
“This has been an ongoing situation for years and it is time that it was sorted out.
“We have a situation where there are now vans parked on both sides of the road and it is fastly becoming a health hazard. We have a situation of young children running back and forward across the road - do we have to wait for a serious accident before it is sorted out? It is a matter of public safety.
“I feel that all the agencies have to get together including the HSE and sort this out.
“This is from a safety perspective and there is no element of discrimination.”
“I have no problem with Travellers provided they look after the property the way everybody else would.
“The law is being flouted and I don’t know who has the power to enforce it.I have to ask where is the law in this town when it comes down to it?”