Travellers in legal challenge against removal of animals

A Judicial Review has been sought in the High Court on Galway County Council’s decision earlier this year to remove horses from land adjacent to a halting side on the outskirts of the city.

In February, eight horses were lifted from a site adjacent to the Carrowbrowne Traveller halting site on the Headford Road.  County Council wardens, Gardaí and representatives of a private horse rescue service based in Roscommon were involved in the operation.  It was prompted after a winter of complaints about wandering horses along the Curraghline – a number of motorists collided with the animals and there were several reported ‘near misses’.

Michael Owens, Director of Services at Galway County Council, has confirmed to County Councillor James Charity (Ind) that Judicial Review proceedings have been taken against the local authority arising from the recovery of those eight animals from a site on the N84.

Mr Owens said: “The Judicial Review proceedings referenced in your email relates to the removal of the horses from the Headford Road and subsequent actions.”

It is understood the proceedings are being taken by or on behalf of the Travellers who own the horses.

Judicial Review proceedings suggest that the action is being taken against the Council on the grounds that there was something procedurally wrong with how the horses were lifted, and/or what was done with them subsequently. There is a certain period of time during which the owners are allowed to claim their animals before they are either rehomed or put to sleep.

The matter is in for mention in the High Court again on November 20, when affidavits will be lodged, but it probably won’t proceed to a full-hearing until 2019.

Cllr Charity, a barrister, said the local authority cannot afford to ‘do nothing’ between now and when the proceedings conclude – stray horses on the N84 is a problem that is once again rearing its head this November, he said.

Just two weeks ago, he said a woman from Shrule contacted him to say she had struck a stray horse wandering on the Headford Road at night. There was nowhere to pull-in safely and, afraid to stop on the side of the road, she drove to Clonboo and abandoned her car, which was badly damaged.

Cllr Charity was present in February when the horses were lifted and he said it was necessary.

“It was particularly bad in November and over Christmas last year, and got worse then in February, when there was no growth and the horses were leaving the site, and crossing the busy road, in search of food. It was dangerous, and people were rightly going berserk.

“Since the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, there have been more horses back in the field at Carrowbrowne and there are concerns that the problem of wandering horses will continue this Winter,” he said.

The matter has been put on the agenda for next Monday’s Athenry/Oranmore Municipal District meeting.