Cllr Joanna Byrne – Victims should not be treated as Criminals

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has demanded clarification from Louth County Council (LCC) as to what provisions they have in place to assist victims of criminal attacks on their homes.

Speaking at Monday’s monthly County Council meeting, Cllr Byrne said that “while dealing with a case last week I was advised by the homeless department of LCC that in cases of the recent petrol bomb attacks on houses , the local authority are treating these as ‘Anti-Social Behaviour’ and their policy is to ask tenants to stay with family and friends until their houses are repaired, or alternatively to surrender their tenancy.”

“Let me very clear about this” she said, “An Garda Siochana and our courts system have not found anybody guilty of these attacks as of yet and Louth County Council have not established any evidence to suggest that those targeted are anything other than victims. These people need to be treated like victims of criminal attacks and not culprits of Anti-Social Behaviour.”

“To ask anyone who has narrowly escaped these attacks with their lives intact, to surrender their tenancy is outrageous. They have been through enough trauma without being forced to relinquish their rights to a house they spent many years making a home, a house they’ve reared their children in, and a house that may be just a shell right now but you can be sure it carries its weight in invaluable memories – good , bad or indifferent.”

Cllr Byrne told the meeting that “relying on family and friends to take in these people is not always feasible, particularly in some cases that may run for a period of many months until houses are repaired. I believe there is an inconsistent approach to how these situations are currently being handled, some people being awarded emergency accommodation, some people getting re-housed and some people being offered no assistance whatsoever.”

The Chief Executive of Louth Council, Joan Martin, responded to Cllr Byrne agreeing with her and that clarification was needed. M/s Martin asked to take the issue away and meet with the Director of Service for Housing and his team and will report back to the members.


Cllr Antoin Watters Incensed by ‘Dirty Dumpers’

Hundreds of tyres were dumped

Sinn Féin Councillor Antóin Watters has hit out at what he describes as ‘dirty dumpers’ following the latest incident of illegal dumping of tyres, this time along the main stretch of motorway just before Junction 20 north of Dundalk, at the old customs weigh bridge.

Cllr Watters said “I got a call early on Saturday morning to say there was a pile of tyres dumped along the side of the motorway. I went to see for myself and to be honest was expecting maybe half a dozen or so and was hoping they would be easily spotted because of the rain. I had no trouble finding them. There was a massive load of hundreds of tyres blatantly dumped on the side of the motorway road.”

Cllr Watters who has been faced with this issue in his area on multiple occasions since

Cllr Antóin Watters

the new year said “to say I was incensed is an understatement. I was speechless. It is like Groundhog Day but this time they didn’t even bother to hide up a mountain road, they pulled up along a busy motorway and they had to have had a truck of some kind.”

“With a heavy heart I contacted Gardaí, the Council and Motorway Maintenance. Somebody must have seen something. I am asking everyone to please try and recall if you were driving along that stretch of the motorway last night if you saw a lorry or truck pulled in. Please check your dashcams, you never know, maybe you were driving behind a truck last night carrying tyres. I have asked Gardaí to check any CCTV along that route, be it from businesses or the motorway itself.”

Last month Councillor Watters had a motion before the Council calling for Cross Border co-operation with Newry, Mourne and Down Council on this very issue. “These people are using the border to their advantage and that needs to be addressed. We need a cross border joined up solution to this cross border problem.”

Tyres dumped along the busy motorway

Next month, Councillor Watters has a further motion on waste disposal to initiate a billboard/advertising campaign to raise awareness on the dangers of using non-licensed waste collectors. “The dumping of heavy duty waste has become rampant in this part of the county and I believe it is from the same small number of criminals, and that is what they are.”

Cllr Watters warned “this issue will be resolved, I am not letting the beautiful part of north Louth become a rubbish tip and Cllr Mickey Larkin in Slieve Gullion is fighting the same battle on his side of the border. It’s time for investment into this problem before it’s too late. It’s not good enough to spend money cleaning up after these dumpers, we need to take a pro-active approach to this and stop citing economics as a reason to do little or nothing.”

“In the meantime, if anyone has any information or has seen anything no matter how insignificant you may think it is, please contact Dundalk Gardaí on 042 93 88 400”

The tyres were set alight (Pic courtesy of LMFM)


UPDATE: On Saturday night/Sunday morning, the tyres were set alight and fire crews were called. They managed to control the blaze and were able to prevent it from spreading.

Message to S Armagh/N Louth Criminals: Get Off Our Backs!

Francis McCabe Jnr

Francis McCabe Jnr

The attempt to kill Frank McCabe Jnr outside Crossmaglen on Wednesday represents a new, violent escalation in the activities of crime gangs in the South Armagh and North Louth region.  Some of those involved are also central to an unrepresentative militarist faction opposed to the Peace Process and Sinn Féin’s political strategy.  This latest escalation follows death threats against Frank Mc Cabe (senior) and Conor Murphy MP in recent weeks.

Other victims of these gangs’ activities include shooting Michael Bellew in Cullyhanna a year ago, and killing Garda Adrian Donohoe in Lordship just over two years ago.

Despite PSNI and An Garda investigations no one has ever been prosecuted for these crimes.  The policing response to this latest incident will be very closely scrutinised both within South Armagh and wider afield.

That reality carries huge implications for policing and community relations in South Armagh.  This area is a republican heartland and bedrock of support for Sinn Féin’s peace strategy.

The Party’s electoral strength in the area, and widespread respect for the local republican leadership was a central element in Sinn Féin’s decision to support policing in 2007.  Since then Party activists and representatives have worked tirelessly to build important relationships with the PSNI and also An Garda to make policing accountable, and to establish partnerships between both and the local community.

During this period, there has been a sinister and systematic upswing in criminality across the area.  Diesel laundering, cigarette smuggling, cattle rustling, vehicle theft, financial extortion of local businesses, and more, have all become a blight on the local community.  The gangs involved operate across the border, they co-operate with each other, and are inter-generational.

Most importantly, the police know their identities.  They are career criminals and yet both the PSNI and An Garda have failed to act against them, despite the active support of local people.

There is a widespread belief that the key figures among these gangs are acting with impunity.

An obvious corollary is that another agenda is in play.

It is no coincidence that a new propaganda offensive driven by some of the island’s most notorious “crime” and “security” journalists has begun to demonise South Armagh, in particular, by disgracefully attributing the upsurge in criminality to republicans.

The reality is that as the gangs operating have extended and expanded their range of criminal activities, the most prominent republican families associated with the Sinn Féin leadership from Ballybinaby, through Dromintee, to Cullyhanna, Crossmaglen, and Camlough have all been physically attacked, threatened and targeted.

A concerted effort is underway to try and deflect republican activists in South Armagh and North Louth from promoting Sinn Féin’s political strategy.  However, whatever agendas and, or, agencies are at work, they will fail.  The local republican leadership and support base is just as determined to succeed in this phase of political struggle as well.

It is for that reason these violent, destabilising, criminal actions are escalating.  Those responsible are a cancer within the local community, and a threat to the political and Peace Processes.  But the progress within our society in terms of democratic change and support for policing cannot be taken for granted.

The PSNI and An Garda have a responsibility to prove they are up to the task and root these criminal elements out once and for all.

The proud people of South Armagh and North Louth must stand united to demand these criminals and militarists get off their backs.

The surrounding border community should also mobilise in solidarity with their South Armagh neighbours against this criminal scourge.

On Sunday 1st March a commemoration will remember Óglaigh Brendan Burns and Brendan Moley in Cullyhanna.  Republicans from across Ireland should attend, and stand in solidarity and support with the Mc Cabe family, and all the republican families under threat from these criminals.

A resounding message needs sent to them to get off the backs of our people, and to get off the back of the Peace Process.