The Garda-led operation in St Anthony’s Park Traveller housing estate was mounted yesterday after gardaí examined a ‘call-out’ video, linked to a Traveller feud, which had been posted online.
It emerged online on Saturday following an aggravated burglary in the Bishopstown area on the city’s southside on Friday.
The 53-second clip shows one man, standing among a group of men armed with slash hooks and knives, verbally threatening another man. Two men fire three shots into the air.
Amid concerns of feud violence, gardaí swooped yesterday on the estate, which was developed by Cork City Council in 2015 at a cost of up to €5m to house about 16 Traveller families who had been living in a cramped halting site nearby.
The multi-agency operation involved up to 60 gardaí, backed by armed detectives, members of several armed Regional Support Units, Garda search teams and dog units, as well as Revenue’s sniffer dog, Harvey.
The estate was sealed off during the course of the operation.
Revenue and Excise officials dipped vehicles for diesel as gardaí executed several search warrants, searching every house and building in the estate, before searching the communal areas.
They climbed ladders to search external gutters, inspected cavities in boundary walls, and lifted manhole and drain covers to inspect sewer and drainage pipes.
They then conducted a fingertip search of adjoining fields and waste ground surrounding the estate.
Detectives left with several labelled evidence bags.
Among the items seized were a sawn-off shotgun, a rifle with a telescopic sight, ammunition, swords, machetes, slash hooks, balaclavas, and pickaxe handles.
Firearms & weapons seized by Gardaí during a major search operation in Knocknaheeny, Cork earlier today. Three men have been arrested. pic.twitter.com/tOt2k0Docu— Garda Info (@gardainfo) September 6, 2017
Gardaí also seized four vehicles: A British-registered Nissan Navarra, a Ford transit van, a luxury Le Vogue model Fendt caravan, worth up to €20,000, and a Sterling model Europa caravan.
Attempts to interview residents of the estate afterwards were unsuccessful.
The Traveller Visibility Group, which works with and supports families in the estate, arranged for a project worker to visit families later.
Spokeswoman Ciara Ridge said when people see such Garda operations, many can jump to the wrong conclusions. “Everyone is tarred with the same brush,” she said.
“I think that’s unfair because it marginalises this community further, and they are already fragile.
“And there are a lot of young children living on this site and this kind of operation can be very threatening and frightening for them.”
Cllr Kenneth O’Flynn (FF) praised the gardaí for mounting the operation.
“They obviously felt there was a cause to investigate and there certainly seems to be an irrefutable argument that this operation was justified,” he said.
Last night, he called on the city council’s housing department to conduct an audit of the needs of those living in the estate. “It is becoming more and more apparent that there are individuals of financial means living in this estate that could well afford to buy their own properties and look after themselves,” he said.
“I would like to establish if these people are in genuine need of council housing, especially when there are so many people on the streets.
“There is a long list of genuine and respected Traveller families living in substandard conditions that would be very happy to have one of those houses.”