Traveller families to be evicted from car park

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Mid Ulster District Council has decided to evict two Traveller families from a car park on the shores of Lough Neagh.

The decision was taken at a specially convened meeting of the council on Monday night.

It is understood there were heated exchanges at the meeting, which was attended by householders living near the council owned car park at Ballyronan and nearby Traad Point.

In a statement, a council spokesperson said: “At the special council meeting held last night (Monday), it was decided to follow through with the order of repossession granted on Monday, 25th June, 2018.

“It was also agreed that a working group comprising NIHE representatives, cross-party councillor representation and Council officers is set up to investigate widening the potential sites for consideration initially suggested in the scoping study presented to the Environment Committee in May.”

Speaking after the meeting DUP Councillor Paul McLean said the decision was reached after “SDLP, Ulster Unionist and DUP councillors joined forces”.

He said while members accepted they had a statutory obligation to assist the Housing Executive in trying to find a site of accommodation for the families, they could not stand by and “allow them to ride roughshod over the local community or end up destroying a place of natural beauty.”

The High Court had granted the council a repossession order instructing the families to leave the carpark by noon on Wednesday of last week. However, it is understood a last minute intervention by Sinn Féin politicians and senior council officials, resulted in a reprieve for the families.

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA Ian Milne had called on the council to abandon its plan to evict the families.

He said in a statement: “I have previously held discussions with the Housing Executive, they have a responsibility to find alternative locations for Travellers, but so far they have failed.”