FORMER Mayor Kevin Sheahan believes there is no reason a troupe of French Travellers who set up camp illegally in a field in West Limerick last month shouldn’t be welcomed on their return to the area.
The Fianna Fáil councillor explained at this Tuesday’s meeting of the Adare-Rathkeale Municipal District that he visited the site in Croagh with an engineer from the local office. According to Cllr Sheahan, the encampment was not a “threat to the community or environment”.
He told council members that the Evangelical group travel across Europe to pray with Traveller communities, and warn against excessive consumption of alcohol and using physical violence as a means to settle disputes.
“I spoke to their leader through an English interpreter on the Monday morning who told me they were leaving the site on the Thursday to be in Monasterevin by lunchtime. I didn’t see the need to get a court injunction to have them moved on as they would already have left the site by the time we got it,” he explained.
“I saw them cooking what I thought to be large pork chops, but it was veal, the real veal, the light-coloured kind that looks like pork. They were very pleasant people and were not a threat to the community or environment.”
The former mayor went onto reveal that the French troupe plan on coming back to the area in December or March next.
“As EU citizens, they are perfectly entitled to come here and as long as they obey planning laws there is no reason we shouldn’t welcome them. I didn’t see as much as a teaspoon on the ground. These people are Evangelical Christians,” he added.
Independent councillor and barrister Emmett O’Brien told Cllr Sheahan that his “instinct” was 100 per cent right in not seeking a court injunction.
“It would have been completely daft after they had already upped and left the place,” he said.
Independent councillor Richard O’Donoghue was also glad to see “common sense prevailed”.
Cllr Sheahan’s Fianna Fáil colleague Bridie Collins also visited the site and told council members that there wasn’t “as much as a sweet wrapper” left behind.
Cllr Sheahan described the main tent in the camp to his council colleagues to that of a circus tent.
“There was enough clowns there alright,” Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary claimed.
He also took issue with Cllr Sheahan’s knowledge of the geography of the area, insisting the encampment was in Rathkeale Commons and not Croagh.
Keary’s party colleague Adam Teskey then took the opportunity to praise Cllr Sheahan for his stand on national radio last month over a Satanic heavy metal band performing in King John’s Castle.
“People who tear up Bibles in the name of the fun are just sick. The Bible is very dear to my heart and I must compliment you for your stand on the Matt Cooper show over this concert,” the Deputy Mayor commented.
In response, Cllr Sheahan said he was “very annoyed” that Satanists were allowed perform in a public space in Limerick.