Travellers who take over roads for sulky races should be evicted from halting sites and have their ponies and carts seized.
That is according to Cork’s two mayors who have reacted angrily to the unprecedented scenes witnessed last Saturday when 60 Travellers turned the main Cork-Mallow road into a racetrack.
“I was just appalled at the lawlessness of it. They had total disregard for public safety and for the welfare of the animals involved. There could have been carnage,” said Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Terry Shannon.
He said local authority tenants responsible for antisocial behaviour could be evicted from council houses and the same should apply to people in council-run halting sites.
He said he would work with Cork County Council to look at introducing bylaws to prevent sulky racing on public roads.
Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Tim Lombard, said: “Urgent action has to be taken on this before somebody gets killed. We should discuss this with the three chief superintendents in charge of the city and county to see what we can do to help them eradicate such dangerous scenes.”
Pavee Point spokesman Ben Archibald urged Travellers who wanted to take part in races to work with their local Traveller organisation, gardaí, and council to find a safe and responsible way of doing so.
“What we saw on Saturday, what we saw in that video [on YouTube] was just a serious risk to life, and there’s nothing cultural about that, you can’t defend that on cultural grounds, and no Traveller is trying to,” he said.
ISPCA chief inspector Conor Dowling said the risk to animals was great.
“The ponies are travelling at high speeds and if they collide with anything or simply stumble and fall, the results can be devastating.” He said in recent years the charity had found ponies which had been abandoned after being injured while trotting.
Superintendent Con Cadogan, who is leading the investigation, said it was likely people who took part would be questioned early next week. He said investigators, extracting evidence from the YouTube video and other sources, would continue to work over the weekend.
In the meantime he appealed for motorists who had to take evasive action to avoid the race, in particular the driver of an articulated lorry who came on the scene, to contact gardaí in Blarney.
One person was banned from driving for a year and he and two others fined a total of €2,100 yesterday for their part in a similar sulky race on the N4 near Sligo in Sept 2010.
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