JPC to contact North-South Ministerial Council over dangerous driving activities on cross-Border road

1 April 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The members of Co Monaghan Joint Policing Committee on Tuesday supported a proposal from Clones public representative Pat Treanor, seconded by Sheila McKenna, requesting that a letter be sent to the secretariat of the North-South Ministerial Council in relation to persistent instances of dangerous driving being perpetrated by motorists on a stretch of the Cavan Road out of Clones that traverses the Border.
It was also agreed on Colr Treanor’s proposal to request the Roads Section of Monaghan Co Council to investigate the possibility of placing more road signage in the area as a deterrent to the activity, which Colr Treanor claimed was taking place on an organised basis with the actions of the drivers concerned regularly attracting large crowds of spectators.
Garda Chief Superintendent Colm Rooney stated that the Gardai were doing everything possible to assist the PSNI in resolving the problem, but emphasised that the driving activities referred to were not taking place in the Gardai’s jurisdiction but on a portion of the roadway that lay in Northern Ireland.
Colr Treanor told the JPC meeting that on an intermittent basis up to 50 or 60 cars could be engaged in ‘doughnuts’ and other dangerous driving manoeuvres on the stretch of the N54/A3 road concerned, with the same number, or double, of an audience.
Some serious concern was being expressed locally for the health and welfare of the people involved in the activity, and there was also a great deal of concern for the local community who were effectively “locked in” during these periods of time, and scourged by the activity and fearful for themselves.
Colr Treanor said that anxiety had also arisen in relation to other road users as the road was closed off by the actions of the drivers concerned, and emergency vehicles, and ambulances going from Monaghan to Cavan could be held up.
“There is a fear in the local area that people there are not getting a policing service, and are being left to their own devices with no one looking after them,” the Sinn Féin representative stated.
He added that the issue had been raised by Clones Town Council, Fermanagh District Council and the Clones Erne East Partnership. A Fermanagh councillor, Thomas Reilly, has arranged a meeting between the Gardai and the PSNI.
There had also been proposals put forward from the area that an alternative venue be sought by the participants for their activities. It was suggested that they could go to the Rally School in Co Monaghan or to the disused laneway of an airport nearby, or to a field where people could engage in this activity in a supervised way.
Colr Treanor requested Monaghan Co Council to take a look at putting more signage on the approach road from Connons, and on the Clones side of the road, requesting drivers to drive carefully and safely and not to carry out dangerous manoeuvres.
He said there had been a bit of a break in the activity over the winter months, which might have been due to the weather. It could also be attributable to an initiative carried out by the Mayors in Co Monaghan and Co Fermanagh and other local representatives and a joint publicity initiative by the two police services.
Colr Treanor proposed that the JPC write to the secretariat of the North-South Ministerial Council and ask them to investigate possible solutions to the problem, which came within the remit of the Ministerial Council as it represented a new or emerging issue to deal with the Border community.
FRUSTRATION OF GARDAI
He referred to the frustration of the local Gardai, who could watch the activity going on ten yards away but could do nothing about it as it was taking place outside their jurisdiction. The PSNI had stated that the activity did not happen on a regular basis, which meant they could not plan for them and by the time they responded to a particular incident the activity was over and the participants had dispersed.
Colr Treanor said that the activity existed because of the ridiculous situation of there being two jurisdictions on this particular road.
Sheila McKenna, seconding Colr Treanor’s proposals, said she had come across this activity herself in relation to motorbikes. She agreed it was a very dangerous activity to be taking place on the main road to Cavan, and said that it could pose particular problems on a Sunday evening when it usually occurred.
Hugh McElvaney asked if what the meeting was hearing about represented “mob rule” in his electoral area. There was something seriously wrong if people were being locked in their homes for two hours and not let out.
He thought that something had to be done at local level involving the Clones Gardai. “If people are living in fear in my electoral area, I will not stand for it,” he declared, describing those responsible as “bully boys”.
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Seamus Coyle said this had been an issue in the Connons area for some time. It had caused serious distress, and accidents and damage to vehicles had resulted from it. He would be fully supportive of any initiative to address the problem.
Colr Coyle added that people were engaging in these activities on what was quite clearly an organised basis, with some travelling from considerable distances away to take part.
Community Forum representative Tom Conlon, who is from the Connons area, suggested the introduction of CCTV in the location where the driving activities were taking place. If the police couldn’t be present, why couldn’t there be cameras there, he asked, referring to a recent court case in Co Fermanagh where a young motorist who engaged in this activity in a car park in Enniskillen had his driving licence taken from him.
Mr Conlon thought there was no reason why the activity couldn’t be picked up on CCTV and the tape given to the Gardai, who could at least question the people who were there.
Committee Chairman David Maxwell said this had become an issue since the quality of the road in question had been improved. He agreed that the problem lay in the jurisdictional situation.
Garda Chief Superintendent Colm Rooney said the problem was happening in Northern Ireland, not in the Clones area. It was a policing issue that must be dealt with, and the Gardai were doing everything they could to assist the PSNI to resolve the issue.
Colr McElvaney: So the roads are not closed on the southern side?
Chief Superintendent Rooney: Absolutely not.

Full report in The Northern Standard

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