Motorists in Coalisland were left scratching their heads in disbelief on Thursday after a rare sighting of a traffic warden in the town.
A strange red-coated figure was spotted walking the streets of the town in the morning, stunning passers-by who had believed the local pavements were a haven for bad parking.
The warden, who was toting a hand-held parking ticket machine, even stopped to note the number plates of several cars.
The event was considered so unusual that one man stopped to take photos.
He posted the images as proof on Facebook, creating a local social media stir as they were shared dozens of times.
For years, the town’s free parking idyll has been a draw for political ire.
One Facebook user joked: “He will have a sore wrist later with all those tickets!”
Another said in disbelief: “Surely that’s someone dressed up for a laugh – is that definitely the Island?”
One social media user said it was ‘well overdue’ - “Until recently I just assumed Coalisland had some sort of exemption from all normal parking and traffic regulations .(And most laws as well.)
A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said that parking attendants are to be deployed in Coalisland one day a month, subject to review.
“There are very few parking restrictions in Coalisland and therefore the Department, up until August 2016, did not routinely deploy traffic attendants to visit the town”, explained the spokeswoman.
“However, following a request from an MLA for enforcement in Coalisland, traffic attendants visited the town once in August and once today.
“On both occasions, no contraventions were found and therefore no Penalty Charge Notices were issued.
“It is proposed that traffic attendants will be deployed in the town one day per month.
“A review of the effectiveness and efficiency of this deployment will be carried out over the next few months.
“An evidence-based decision will then be taken on whether or not to continue with deployment.
“The ongoing safety of traffic attendants is paramount and is monitored on an ongoing basis.”
DUP MLA Lord Morrow welcomed the move, adding that he hoped the arrival of parking attendants in Coalisland would be a “morale booster” for residents and businesses alike.
He continued: “One of my particular concerns is the abuse of disabled parking bays, a sadly regular occurrence in many areas.
“Without proper enforcement it is the vulnerable who suffer — a fact lost on those who much preferred self-regulation and were critical of my previous calls for parity for all towns and villages. The mixed message of parking infringements only being penalised in some areas and not all, must be eradicated.”