Multiple arrests in Laois town over illegal Halloween bonfires

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Gardaí

There were seven people arrested in a Laois town over the Halloween weekend, as tensions "boiled over" over bonfires being removed by the authorities.

Laois Gardaí, Laois Fire & Rescue Service and Laois County Council all attended the interlinked estates of Kirwan Park and Cullenbeg in Mountmellick on Friday and Saturday nights October 30 and 31 to remove bonfires.

Laois Gardaí confirmed that one man was arrested on Friday night. This followed a large fire being lit at a community building that was being used as a creche in the centre of Cullenwood estate, which was then extinguished by Mountmellick fire service. 

"There was a good bit of verbal abuse of Gardaí and the Fire Service, and damage to a patrol car also," a spokesperson said.

On Saturday night there was greater unrest in the area.

"There had been a build up, a stockpile of bonfires in a couple of locations. On the basis of what happened on Friday night, there was a strong Garda presence there on Saturday night.

"A large crowd had gathered, not all from Mountmellick, which we are very disappointed to see given the current Covid restrictions. We know the local people living in the estates so we know that some people there were not residents. 

"There were six arrests made for public order offences, including a number of youths. These will be subject to further investigation and possible court appearances. We were asking people to disperse," the Garda Spokesperson said.

He said that it was more important this year to remove any bonfires because they attract large gatherings which is against Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions. 

"It was a worse Halloween than normal, in a good few years. Things boiled over a bit.

"We were assisted greatly by the public and we thank them. We rely on them. People living in the estates were not appreciative of the bonfires and had called us for assistance," the spokesperson said.

Large crowds gathered in the estates to watch the events unfold on both nights, sharing videos on social media.

On Saturday night, Halloween, this video, shared by Irish media site The Liberal.ie was taken showing one of the people being arrested.

Last Thursday, the council and Gardaí had removed a bonfire in Smiths Field beside the estates, which had included a fridge freezer that could have exploded when lit, as well as a television, wheelie bins and pvc doors.