Gardai were called in after a gang of masked men armed with golf clubs and bats forced security staff to withdraw from a city-owned landbank where a vast illegal dump was cleared two months ago.
A series of meetings involving gardaí, city council officials and Traveller representatives are due to take place over the coming days in a bid to resolve the issue following the tense altercation at the former Ellis’s yard site, alongside the Spring Lane Traveller halting site, on the northside of Cork city.
Gardaí were alerted to the incident around 10.30pm on Wednesday after a group of masked men, some armed with golf clubs and bats, threatened up to six private security staff who have been patrolling the Ellis’s yard site in Ballyvolane since March.
Members of the garda armed regional support unit were called in as back-up.
The situation was diffused. There were no injuries.
A garda spokesman said that when they arrived, there was no incident and no complaint has since been made.
But sources described the incident as “tense and worrying”.
A spokesman for Cork City Council confirmed that the security staff have now been withdrawn from the Ellis’s yard site for health and safety reasons. But mobile patrols of the site are continuing.
The council-owned landbank has been blighted by illegal dumping for several years.
Contractors were hired in March to remove an estimated 200-tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish from the area, CCTV cameras were subsequently installed and private security staff were hired to patrol the site 24-hours a day in a bid to deter more illegal dumping activity.
But several illegal dumping incidents have been reported in adjoining areas in recent weeks.
The intimidation of security staff on site on Wednesday night was described by one source as a signal that those involved in the illegal dumping want to resume their industrial-scale activity on Ellis’ yard.
The adjoining halting site, designed for less than a dozen families, is now home to more than 30, many of whom live in an unauthorised extension of the site.
Despite some attempts at improvements, workers on site have been threatened and intimidated and conditions across the site are still described as appalling.
Local Fianna Fáil Cllr Ken O’Flynn said it is time for the council to close down the halting site once and for all.
“The time for diplomacy is over. It’s time that Cork City Council manned up.”.
“We need to stop turning a blind eye to this kind of behaviour. This is our land and the time for pandering to certain groups is over. It’s time to close down that halting site, and for those families who are living on the unauthorised area of the halting site to be evicted. With the city boundary extension taking effect in a few weeks, there is plenty of new land coming into the city that could be considered for Traveller housing schemes.”
The former Ellis’s yard site is zoned for Traveller accommodation under the city development plan.
But in 2011, city councillors voted against extending the halting site into the yard site.
A group housing scheme is now under consideration for the site.
But Mr O’Flynn said he will resist any attempts to develop housing on the site.