Ten members of the Travelling community who camped on lands belonging to Ballina Town Council over a one year to 15 month period from September 2007, were before Ballina District Court this week.
Detective Garda John McCallion received a complaint in September 2007 by Carmel Murphy, the town clerk of Ballina, who informed him that caravans were illegally parked on council land in Kilmore Moy, Ballina.
Garda McCallion spoke with those camped — Mary Teresa and Charles Lawrence, Bernard and Ellen McDonagh, Ann and James Ward, and Ann and Michael Lawrence — who all gave addresses in the UK. They were informed that they were occupying council land and were asked to vacate, but failed to do so.
In April 2008 Michael and Ann Ward, who gave a Ballina address, arrived on the site. They also failed to vacate. An injunction was served in December 2008 and lands were vacated.
The town clerk told the court that the lands were unsightly and untidy once the caravans arrived and said that works were due to commence on the land including the Gráinne Uaile Sub Aqua Club, Mayo County Council outdoor depots (where a sewer and road were to be also connected ) and some of the land was to be sold to private individuals. However due to the illegal camping these works could not progress.
Ms Murphy said that the illegal residents were seeking houses from the local authority, even though many had vacated houses in the UK, and were assisted by the Traveller liaison officer in filling out application forms. However, with an excess of 500 people on the housing list, the families have yet to be accommodated by the local authority but all are currently housed under private rental agreements.
Judge Mary Devins convicted and fined Charles and Mary Teresa Lawrence €500 each and Michael and Ann Ward €500 each (as none of these defendants was present or represented in court ). The summonses against the female defendants were struck out and a voluntary contribution of €600 by the remaining defendants is to be paid to the local authority. The judge adjourned the case to February 9 for payment.