A Notice of Motion was agreed to immediately organise and implement a clean-up of waste and dumping on the roads and general environs of the site, including collection of unlicensed dogs and horses
Vandalism, intimidation, animal welfare issues and anti-social behaviour in the vicinity of the St Catherine’s Halting Site at Wetlands has local residents and councillors at their wits’ end.
At the June meeting of Kilkenny City Municipal District, local councillors had clearly run out of patience with the situation. Cllr Joe Malone, who is the chairman of the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee, said ‘to say it is a pain in the arse is an understatement’ and described it as ‘the most frustrating committee I was ever on’.
Another councillor, David Fitzgerald, revealed that a community centre provided for the halting site has been been vandalised so often that the council is no longer prepared to keep repairing it.
It was Cllr Fitzgerald’s Notice of Motion — calling for the Municipal District to ‘immediately organise and implement a clean-up of waste and dumping on the roads and general environs of the site’, including the collection of unlicensed dogs and unchipped unregistered horses — that prompted the discussion.
Cllr Fitzgerald said it was ‘with regret’ that he put down the Notice of Motion, but residents of the area and of the halting site had had enough.
“I’ve been contacted by a large number of residents in the vicinity of the halting site, and it’s fair to say that matters are at breaking point,” he said.
Cllr Fitzgerald said there had been ‘encroachments’ onto a field of corn adjacent to the halting site, where people in sulkies have established what he described as a ‘Ben Hur-type racetrack’. He said the Gardaí had been notified of this, but anti-social behaviour is taking place at an unacceptable level.
“A number of the residents who are older or who live there and raised families, and they are literally in fear of the activity there,” he said.
Cllr Fitzgerald added that he had spoken to director of services Mary Mulholland, and was informed the community centre on the site has been repossessed by the council because of repeated and continued damage.
“It has been repaired at the council and the taxpayer’s expense on a number of occasions, but continued to be wrecked,” he said.
Cllr Michael Doyle said he supported the comments. He said one of the disappointing aspects of his term as mayor had been the negative publicity Kilkenny got in relation to animal cruelty issues and horses dying on our roads.
“We should be dropping the hammer of the law on those involved in this type of activity”, he said.
“I support the motion to clean up [the area], but there’s no reason those dogs and horses should be there. If I had them at home, they’d be taken away.”
Cllr Patrick McKee said he had written to the council in relation to the ‘temporary racetrack’ being used, and had written to the property owner asking for the land to be secured.
He said some of the disrespect shown by those involved was extraordinary.
“There has been so much deference paid to the residents of the halting site,” he said, adding that the council needed to revisit its housing strategy.
Cllr Malcolm Noonan supported the motion, and said there were ‘serious problems in St Catherine’s’. He asked what was the status of the management company engaged by the council to deal with the site.
He also said there had been minimal progress on the horse project. The Green Party councillor said there appeared to be no coherent plan for the site.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness said people spoke about education and the provision of a dedicated space for sulkies, and that he had an open mind about any ideas brought forward, but first and foremost the law needed to be obeyed.
“We shouldn’t be rewarding or using as a bartering tool when people are regularly flouting laws,” he said.
The Fianna Fail councillor said the collection of unlicensed animals had already been approved, and Gardaí had brought forward plans. He said there would be a number of planned checks followed by ‘spontaneous checks’.
He said the Housing SPC had defined that horses were not pets and can’t be in homes, and dogs were confined to two per household. He said that it wasn’t just the law being broken, but tenancy agreements.
Cllr Joe Malone also said that the agencies and the council could do no more, and invited people to attend the next meeting of the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee. He also wanted to know who was being suggested to clean the area up.
The Notice of Motion was agreed by all present.