Traveller families complain over ‘invasion’ of site by armed gardaí

Actor John Connors who lives at Dublin halting site says residents are ‘traumatised’

Actor and documentary-maker John Connors Traveller site in Coolock was raided by armed and unarmed Gardaí. Residents claim that the search warrant was for a neighbouring site not their one.

 

A 16-year-old mother has claimed that armed gardaí pointed an assault rifle at her and her two-month-old daughter when they “invaded” a Traveller site in north Dublin this week.

Kathleen Joyce says two men “wearing balaclavas” came into her mobile home where she was changing her baby’s nappy, “pointing real guns”.

“I was screaming, saying, ‘I have my baby’. They didn’t believe me because she was on the bed so I had to pick her up. She was crying and screaming. She was very scared.”

The incident is among several that three extended families at the Belcamp Lane halting site in Darndale claim occurred over a two-hour period, that they want investigated.

They say armed and unarmed gardaí with dogs arrived at the site at about noon. They say assault rifles were pointed at several of them, including a 13-year-old girl, and others were held face down on the ground, with rifles directed at them, for up to 15 minutes.

They did not initially know the armed men in balaclavas were gardaí. These men were followed, they say, by uniformed gardaí, one of whom produced a search warrant as they left, despite repeated requests as to their purpose on the site.

The warrant indicated the gardaí were searching for fire-arms, but that referred not to their site, but a neighbouring one.

Among the about 40 people living there are five young children, and actor and documentary-maker, John Connors.

‘Traumatised’

Mr Connors, who was filming elsewhere during the incident, says he found his family “traumatised” when he got home.

His mother, Kathleen Connors, tells how she was in her trailer at about noon when she saw “a load of men with guns and balaclavas coming in over the fence. They were telling everyone to get down to the ground.”

She says she went out and was told: “Get down or we’ll shoot”. Ms Connors, her son Joe, her nephew James and his wife Charlene were “held down, lying in puddles with their feet on our backs,” she says. “I really was afraid for our lives.”

“They had their faces covered and they would not tell us anything. They just kept telling us not to move.”

Joe Connors, who works in construction, said gardaí at the adjoining site called the armed officers away before coming in themselves.

“We were told to get up and stand at that end of the site while they searched the place with dogs. I asked them for a search warrant and got nothing. I asked their names, their badge numbers, what they were looking for, they just ignored me,” Joe Connors says.

“They saw my tools and asked if they were stolen, because I’m a Traveller I suppose. They’re my tools. I bought them. All they took away in the end was a Playstation, bank cards and four curtain poles.”

Among those on-site on Thursday was Sr Lumay Thomas from the Franciscan Sisters of Mary who had just heard about the events. “It’s very bad to treat people like that, and the way they spoke to the families, with children here, is really bad.”

John Connors said the families would be making a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. “This isn’t going to just blow over.”

Asked about the claims, a Garda spokesman said: “Gardaí from Coolock, assisted by the Armed Support Unit” searched the site.

“During the course of the search gardaí seized drug paraphernalia, mobile phones and offensive weapons. One man was arrested on foot of a warrant and one was arrested for possession of a small quantity of suspected cannabis.”