Fine Gael Kildare South TD Martin Heydon has called on the Minister for Defence to enhance the system of patrolling and monitoring of the Curragh Plains. He was speaking following a meeting in the Department of Defence this week with the Minister and his officials.
“I believe the time is now right for a full review of the resources assigned to the Ranger system on the Curragh which manages all aspects of the almost 5,000 acre site.
“This summer in particular I have been inundated with queries and concerns from residents and users of the Curragh Plains about illegal encampments, dumping and driving on the plains. The current “Maor” system has seen 3 Rangers employed to patrol the vast South Kildare site which is not appropriate for the size and scope of the area.
“I advised the Minister and his officials that more resources needed to be assigned to the system to ensure an increased presence of suitably qualified, resourced and trained Rangers who could adequately deal with the many issues affecting the Curragh.
“While I accept that an increased monitoring presence will not solve all the problems on the Curragh I believe it would go some way to discouraging much of the illegal acts and behaviour that have become regular occurrences on the Curragh Plains which we need to work to maintain and protect.
“This Minister also advised me through a Parliamentary Question response that his Department has spent approximately €117,000 in the first six months of this year on cleanup operations following illegal camping and dumping, the disposal of rubbish and cutting of nettles and thistles.
Notes to the Editor – Recent Parliamentary Question Response
QUESTION NO: 1752
To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the action his department can take and has taken in 2017 to deal with incidents of illegal dumping and illegal camping on the Curragh plains which is causing concerns for local persons and users of the plains; his views on whether these actions are sufficient to deal with the incidents; his further views on whether additional resources or powers are required; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
DEPUTY MARTIN HEYDON.
Ref No: 36506/17
FOR WRITTEN ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY 26th JULY, 2017.
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Mr Paul Kehoe, T.D.):
There are a wide range of challenges and issues to be addressed when dealing with the Curragh. As the Deputy will appreciate, the Curragh being approximately 4,870 acres in area is one of the most open and accessible areas in the country.
At the most recent meeting of the Curragh Forum several actions were agreed to assist in addressing a number of the problems. Notably it was agreed that a review of the Curragh Bye-Laws and the Curragh of Kildare Act would be timely, with a view to identifying amendments that could potentially provide more effective solutions to the issues of illegal encampments, illegal dumping, illegal parking and other key issues. This review is progressing.
The openness and accessibility of the Curragh Plains render many of these issues very difficult to address. Notwithstanding this, illegal dumping and camping are amongst the priorities for my Department. An environmental maintenance contract for the Curragh is in place and in the first six months of this year my Department has spent approximately €117,000 in this regard. The work undertaken includes cleanup operations following illegal camping and dumping, the disposal of rubbish and cutting of nettles and thistles.
The response to illegal dumping is managed by the Department land staff in cooperation with the County Kildare Litter Warden, and in line with the obligations of the Litter Pollution Act 1997. As I have alluded to previously, given the size and openness of the Curragh Plains it is difficult to prevent this activity. However, it is dealt with expeditiously once it has been identified.
In relation to illegal camping, Section 19C of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as inserted by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002, provides that it is an offence for a person to enter on and occupy property without the consent of the owner. Under the provisions of the Act, An Garda Síochána have the power, without warrant, to arrest a person who fails to leave when requested and seize anything they bring onto the property in question. Penalties for persons found guilty of an offence under this section of the Act include fines not exceeding €3,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding one month, or both. Accordingly, my officials report all incidents of illegal encampments on the Curragh Plains to An Garda Síochána as soon as they are made aware of them. Some 39 incidents have occurred to date this year.
Work has commenced on cutting weeds, nettles and thistles on the Curragh plains and it is expected to be completed by September. It should be noted that this work must be carried out in accordance with the Noxious Weeds Act 1936.