Carrickmines residents and Traveller community at odds before fatal fire

There had been ongoing tensions between Carrickmines residents and members of the Traveller community in the months leading up to the October 9 fire which killed 10 people.

Carrickmines residents and Traveller community at odds before fatal fire

Homeowners complained to authorities about anti-social behaviour, drinking, and criminality at the site in the days before the fire.

Documents into the State’s cross-department response to the fire, released under Freedom of Information, reveal that Government was informed of the allegations just days after the tragedy, amid a row with residents who stopped the relocation of the displaced families.

The complaints to Government came after the Environment Minister, Alan Kelly, criticised the blocking of a proposed relocation of the Traveller families to a site beside a settled estate.

“What happened in the halting site was a shocking tragedy and, yes, the nation is heartbroken, but what you are doing to those decent Irish homeowners and taxpayers is shameful,” wrote one resident to Mr Kelly. “If you are so concerned about resettling the Travellers, put them on your own doorstep.”

While expressing their sympathy, residents contacted Mr Kelly to highlight their concerns at the proposal to move the halting site to land beside the settled estate at Rockville Drive.

“The Carrickmines fire was a tragedy,” wrote one resident. “To use that as a veil by which to impose a completely arbitrary, and wholly unwanted, change to other people’s lives is not only wrong, but absolutely cynical.”

“Two nights before the tragic fire at the halting site, I heard drunken howling noises, coming from the site,” wrote another resident. “This is a very common event, since the site’s inception. I, personally, have been back and forth to Cabinteely garda station over stolen lawnmowers.

“The problem at the site is mental health and alcohol, and very little else. The people of Rockville Drive are rightly concerned over developments. It is wrong for this tragic event to become a political football, either on a temporary or permanent basis.”

Another resident wrote to say Mr Kelly’s comments were “shameful and simply trying to impress voters”.

“Do you know, these residents have been subjected to intimidation and break-ins from that Traveller group for the past few years?” said the resident.

Another said residents feared that a “temporary” arrangement would quickly become a permanent, intolerable one.

“A temporary site for eight months — Oh Yea! Knowing how councils work, it could be for 18 years,” wrote the resident. “If you are that concerned about the remaining Travellers, why not take them down to your constituency in Tipperary?”

Others blamed Mr Kelly, and the Government, for having placed the Travellers in an “unsafe” site in the first place.

However, the cross-department response, which involved An Garda Síochána, the Department of Justice, the Department of Social Protection, and the Department of the Environment, was co-ordinated after representatives of the Traveller families reached out to Government for financial, psychological and press-relations support.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Kelly were contacted about financial assistance for the funerals, the documents show.

One friend of the Lynch family, who acted on their behalf, appealed for State support, as they “are impoverished and cannot bear any costs related to what happened”.

“The Lynch family have had to deal with an exceptional trauma,” said the friend. “No counselling services have been provided by any State body.”

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