Rathkeale gets maximum policing to deal with Christmas ‘mayhem’
■ Policing plan includes drug swoops, deployment of detectives, and dogs as thousands of Travellers arrive
Rathkeale may well be the most policed town in the world over the Christmas period, with gardaí planning to deploy massive resources to cope with an influx of visiting Travellers from next month.
The policing plan will see armed gardaí deployed to the town over the Christmas and New Year period.
The HSE has confirmed it will provide a “triage clinic” in the town from December 20 to January 4.
Members of the Garda Divisional Drug Unit, Garda Divisional Dog Unit, and detective units, will have a dedicated presence in the town.
CCTV cameras will relay live images to a centralised control room in Limerick City operated by gardaí.
A juvenile liaison garda will also be based in the town and holiday court sittings will also be provided, if required.
During the festive period, the town’s population can swell by up to 3,000.
Local sources said “general mayhem” is caused over Christmas, and that visiting Travellers engage in racing one another through the streets in high-powered vehicles.
“I’m living just outside the town and it becomes an absolute rodeo at Christmas,” said a source.
“If you’re driving along the N69, they will pull up alongside both sides of you and they treat it like a race.
“It’s manic at the best of times on a Friday night, but at Christmas, it’s like the Wild West,” they added.
Speed ramps have been placed throughout the town by Limerick City and County Council in an effort to curb concerns over road traffic issues.
Gardaí said their policing plan is a direct response to concerns raised by the local settled and local Traveller population.
Last year’s operation cost €22,000 and was “very successful”, gardaí say. This year’s plan is being headed up by Cork native, District Superintendent John Deasy, and District Inspector Alan Cullen. The operation will target antisocial behaviour, dangerous driving, littering and drug offences, they said.
Gardaí will maintain a presence at local schools, during pupil drop-off and pick-up times. A Garda personnel carrier will also be based in the town on a 24/7 basis.
“Our plan will have a four-pronged approach dealing with antisocial behaviour; roads policing and enforcement; criminality; and drug activity,” said Supt Deasy.
“Our objective is got make sure every part of the community in Rathkeale is able to go about their business without being interfered with. There have been issues raised in relation to anti-social behaviour and road policing issues with young offenders.”
A mammoth police plan is being put in place in Rathkeale for the Christmas period.
Thousands of members of the Travelling Community will arrive in the Co Limerick town from next month.
District Inspector Alan Cullen said a review of the Garda policing plan was carried out in March 2017 by an independent arbitrator who liaised with local settled and Traveller communities to “come up with a solution” to concerns raised over the swell in the Traveller population over the festive period.
“Last year, we decided to deploy our resources to deal with the problems directly.
“We applied last year for a separate budget for the policing of the (West Limerick) district over the Christmas period (and) 95% of it was spent in Rathkeale. Overall, we would have increased supervision throughout the Christmas period,” he said.
Young people driving highpowered cars in the town has been a problem over the period in question.
“Something we have decided to do (this year) is send gardaí into the schools in advance of the Christmas period, to talk to the young people, and explain to them about the effects of anti-social behaviour… and the dangers of underage people driving, and so forth,” he added.
The Divisional Drug Unit based in Limerick City will be present in Rathkeale, Insp Cullen said, and will carry out “swoops around the town searching people for illicit drug use”.
“Our armed support unit, our detective branch, our detectives from Newcastle West and from Limerick City” will also be deployed to the town.
Superintendent John Deasy, who is heading up this year’s operation in Rathkeale, said: “We are obtaining a personnel carrier from one of the other garda divisions, so that it’s available on a 24/7 basis within the Rathkeale area. We will have a motorcycle at our disposal and we will also have (bicycles) available to us to get (gardaí) around quickly.
“Our own District Traffic Unit will be based in Rathkeale for the duration of the policing operation; augmented by the (city-based) Divisional Traffic Unit, who will come out and set up different operations. We will use the ASU (armed support unit). They will be in the area during the course of the operation. The (city-based) Divisional Dog Unit will come out and set up specific targeted patrols.”
He said they have already engaged with local pubs and fast-food outlets reminding them to obey the liquor licensing laws “to get people out of the main town of Rathkeale” at night.
The influx of high-powered cars is “a problem”, gardaí acknowledged.
“The volume of vehicles through the main street increases significantly. (The speed ramps) are trying to slow traffic down for the safety of pedestrians,” Supt Deasy said.
Despite advances in technology and CCTV cameras which will relay live footage from Rathkeale to gardaí in Limerick City, he said the Rathkeale population must be the eyes and ears of gardaí so gardaí can properly address their concerns.
“This is about the community buying into what we are trying to achieve, which is a peaceful Christmas for everyone.”
Roads policing is part of a ‘four-pronged approach’ gardaí are taking.