Gardaí with riot shields in stand-off at Travellers’ site

Gardaí in protective barrier around Sligo council staff carrying out works at car park

Up to 14 uniformed gardaí, some carrying riot shields, formed a protective barrier around Sligo county council staff  at a car park on  Connaughton road (above) in Sligo. File photograph: Google Street View

Up to 14 uniformed gardaí, some carrying riot shields, formed a protective barrier around Sligo county council staff at a car park on Connaughton road (above) in Sligo. File photograph: Google Street View

 

Gardaí armed with riot shields faced Travellers during a stand-off in a car park in Sligo town on Wednesday.

A number of young children chanted “we have rights” as up to 14 uniformed gardaí, some carrying riot shields, formed a protective barrier around Sligo county council staff who were carrying out works at the Connaughton road car park.

Throughout the operation, a Garda Armed Response Unit vehicle was parked outside the car park.

The car park was the scene of a confrontation two weeks ago when gardaí accompanied workers as they dismantled a fence and painted in parking spaces on behalf of the county council.

The car park has been home to the extended McGinley family for an estimated 30 years. Speculation is growing that the family will mount an “adverse possession” claim, also known as “squatters’ rights”, against the council over the property. The council says it has been working hard to find alternative accommodation for the family.

‘Heavy-handed’ claim

Sources close the McGinleys accused the council of being “heavy-handed” in its approach to the family in recent weeks, while the council has insisted the Garda presence was necessary to protect its staff. Council sources said it had always maintained this was a public car park and it had a duty to continue to ensure the public had access there.

In a statement, the council said Wednesday’s operation was to remove a tree which had been obstructing traffic signage and to restore a height control barrier which had been restored some time ago and typical of barriers at all public car parks.

The council said it was “maintaining contact with the McGinley family through their solicitor in relation to recent issues at the car park”.

Continuing to engage

A spokesman said the council was continuing to engage with the family with a view to finding a solution to their accommodation needs.

The family has turned down three sites suggested by the council, saying two of them had been rejected before as they were in commercial/industrial areas.

There were no arrests following the two-hour operation. A Garda spokesman said gardaí were present “to prevent any breach of the peace”.

It is understood the family has sought the advice of senior counsel in relation to its claim for adverse possession. Sources pointed out the erection of the height control barrier means it will no longer be possible to move caravans in and out of the car park.

While the council said it was required to ensure protection for staff carrying out works on its behalf, sources close to the family have described the presence of members of the Garda Armed Response Unit and gardaí in riot gear as “over the top”.