The High Court has given two Traveller couples until 2pm tomorrow to remove their caravans from the vicinity of an unofficial halting site in Co Tipperary or face the prospect of being jailed for contempt.
In a ruling, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys found Elizabeth and her husband William McCarthy, and Winnie and her husband John McCarthy, were in breach of court orders and were in contempt of court.
He said the couples had not complied with the terms of an injunction granted in July requiring several persons whose presence at Cabragh Bridge, Cabragh, Thurles, the local authority alleged constituted a public nuisance, to vacate the vicinity of the unofficial halting site.
The couples he said had only moved their caravans some 50 meters from the site and were now residing on the side of the road at a place the council claims was hazardous to the public.
While the rule of law has to be complied with, and court orders must be obeyed the judge said at this stage it was "not necessary" to jail the McCarthys.
The Judge ruled that the couples would have to move their caravans at least 2km away from their current locations before 2pm tomorrow - Friday, October 4.
If the couples did not move voluntarily the Judge said the council had permission orders to remove the caravans from their current location and move them at least 2km from the unofficial halting site.
If there was any resistance to such actions, the Judge said the Gardaí can arrest the couples and bring them before the next available sitting of the High Court, where they could be committed to prison.
The judge made his ruling after hearing detailed and on occasions emotional submissions from the McCarthys as well as submissions from Tipperary Co Council.
The Judge said he noted the McCarthys' claims that they had nowhere to go, that they were asked to move shortly after Storm Lorenzo hit Ireland and that no suitable offer of alternative accommodation had been made to them.
While he sympathised with their situation the court, he said, could only deal with the issue of whether or not there had been compliance with the injunction, and not with any grievances over housing issues.
'Inappropriate and unsuitable'
The injunctions granted in July required the defendants to remove their mobile homes, vehicles and caravans from Cabragh Bridge, and not cause any obstruction to the roadway.
The defendants were also ordered to vacate and cease residing on or anywhere in the vicinity of Cabragh Bridge, which the local authority said is an inappropriate and unsuitable place to reside.
The matter had been before the court on several occasions.
The council, represented by David Humphries Bl, said that while most of the persons at the site had moved on in compliance with the orders, that two couples and their families had remained in the vicinity of Cabragh Bridge.
They had only moved a short distance away, in contempt of the court's orders.
As a result, the council. has brought motions seeking to have the couples attached and committal to prison due to their ongoing contempt.
Elizabeth and Winnie McCarthy, who represented themselves and their husbands, told the court that the council were not doing their jobs. All they wanted was to to be housed somewhere suitable.
They argued that all Tipperary Co Council wanted was to see them jailed, rather than resolve the situation.
The council said it had offered the defendants help in securing alternative accommodation.
Talks between the parties had failed to resolve the situation.
The dispute centres around Tipperary Council's plans to accommodate Travellers, who had resided on the bridge for 30 years, in a €2m six-unit group housing scheme, which is now ready for occupation.
The council said the proceedings were brought against several members of the McCarthy family who had moved to the site in recent years, but who were not among the persons who were being accommodated in the new scheme.