Garda ‘had no control’ over number attending Donegal rally

Business leaders say event should continue, despite 56 arrests last weekend

Extra gardaí and the Garda helicopter were deployed for the Donegal International Rally. File photograph: iStock/Getty Images

Extra gardaí and the Garda helicopter were deployed for the Donegal International Rally. File photograph: iStock/Getty Images

 

A lack of Garda control over the numbers attending the Donegal International Rally in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, has been blamed after there were 56 arrests at the event last weekend.

Most of the arrests were for public order and motoring offences as tens of thousands of people streamed into Letterkenny for the three-day event.

The number of arrests were more than double the number on last year’s event, leading to concern over public safety around the event.

Local members of the business community said gardaí had no control over the large number of people coming into the town for the occasion.

However, business owners and leaders in Co Donegal have said there is no reason why the event should not continue.

Extra gardaí and the Garda helicopter were deployed for the event, with a visible Garda presence on the streets.

Unofficially, however, gardaí have expressed concern for a lack of manpower to properly police the event.

Local hotelier Terry McEniff, of the popular Mount Errigal Hotel, said the vast majority of those who cause trouble each year have nothing to do with the rally.

“I was in Letterkenny during the daytime and I witnessed this element. These people did not bother following the rally which was taking place outside of Letterkenny.

“Instead they were simply driving around and around the town. But the reality is that we simply cannot stop these people from coming into Donegal and into Letterkenny.

“This type of unsocial behaviour has nothing to do with real rally fans who behave themselves impeccably each year,” he said.

Toni Forrester, chief executive of Letterkenny Chamber, agreed that the rally was a testing time for locals but said it was vital to the local economy.

She agreed the vast majority to those attending the event were “genuine” rally fans who did not get involved in any antisocial behaviour.

“In recent years the Donegal Motor Club have been very proactive in their plans for the event but you simply cannot keep this element out of Donegal,” Ms Forrester said.

“The rally provides a major financial boost for the service industry in Letterkenny and Donegal when it is on.

“I do appreciate that there are headaches for the local community, but it is something the various bodies including the gardaí, motor club and council are working towards improving each year,” she said.