"Real concerns about social distancing" - TD says large encampment on Curragh must be moved on as soon as possible

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"Real concerns about social distancing"  - TD calls for encampment on Curragh must be moved on as soon as possible

Caravans and other vehicles at the location

Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’Loughlin has said the encampment of caravans on Walsh’s Hill on the Curragh must be removed as soon as is possible given the current Covid-19 restrictions. 

The local politician added that gardai and Military Police should be given whatever state resources are required to urge the encampment to move on.

Photo: Stephen Maher (stephenmaher@outlook.com)

The Department of Defence, which has official jurisdiction over the Curragh Plains, said it is not viable to move on the caravans and vehicles until after the current Covid-19 restrictions, which are in place until at least Tuesday, May 5.

Under the government's public health restrictions, members of the Traveller community who are located in temporary sites, cannot be moved on as they are included in a general ban on evictions.

The Department of Housing also instructed local authorities to put in place practical measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at temporary Traveller sites and to help with self isolation such as running water for hand washing, extra toilets, more caravans and refuse collection.

But Kildare County Council confirmed this week that it has no jurisdiction over the Curragh Plains and the issue is a matter for the Department of Defence.

READ MORE: Drone Photos of Travellers' encampment on the Curragh

But O’Loughlin said: “There are real concerns locally about the failure of members of this encampment to observe social distancing guidelines.

“For several years, there have been ongoing issues with illegal dumping and encampments on the Curragh which completely detract from its beauty and affect the many local people who use it for leisure purposes.

“As a TD for Kildare South, I introduced the Curragh of Kildare (Amendment) Bill 2018 – a Bill to protect the Curragh from dumping and illegal encampments. It provides for the management to take action against people illegally using the land.

 “The Curragh is a place of great ecological, archaeological and cultural importance and a great facility for people to use, especially those within a 2km radius at present. It should have the highest level of protection and in my view, become a national heritage site in the long term.

“In the short term, swift and decisive action must be taken to remove this encampment as soon as that is possible.

"I understand the difficulties this poses for our Gardai and Military Police and they should be given whatever State help they require;” concluded Senator O’Loughlin.