A judge has warned he may change his approach to dealing with offending motorists in the wake of the latest Donegal International Rally.
Judge Paul Kelly spoke as he dealt with a number of offenders at Letterkenny District Court yesterday. He described the atmosphere in the town as something similar to Dodge City because of the behaviour of certain visitors.
There were a total of 58 arrests during the rally, many of them for public order and motoring offences.
Many of those arrested have been bailed and will be dealt with at a special sitting of Letterkenny District Court on July 4.
In a hard-hitting address, Judge Kelly said this was the sixth year he had sat before the court on the Monday after the rally weekend.
“Each year it seems to me it is getting worse and more numerous and it seems the approach I am taking is not working and I will have to change that approach,” he said.
“People are coming to Donegal and to Letterkenny and driving round in the manner that had been described by Garda O’Dowd and they think they can get away with it and it’s great fun.
“Gardaí are being put to enormous inconvenience and are getting dog’s abuse. The atmosphere is turning into something akin of Dodge City in the bad old days and it has to stop.”
Despite the arrests, local business owners and leaders said there is no reason why the Donegal International Rally should not continue.
The vast majority 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.
However, local members of the business community say gardaí simply have no control over the large number of people coming for the occasion.
Extra Garda manpower as well as the Garda helicopter were deployed for the event with a visible Garda presence on the streets.
Unofficially, gardaí have expressed concern for a lack of manpower to properly police the event.
Hotelier Terry McEniff, of the popular Mount Errigal Hotel, said the reality is that the vast majority of those who cause trouble each year have nothing whatsoever to do with the rally.
“I was in Letterkenny during the daytime and I witnessed this element,” he said.
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.”
Toni Forrester, the chief executive of Letterkenny Chamber, agreed the rally was a testing time for locals but that it is one which is vital to the local economy.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved