Armed gardaí were patrolling the town of Rathkeale in Co Limerick on Monday night after violent incidents erupted between rival groups, leaving the town “like a war zone”, locals said.
A number of vehicles were written off in ramming incidents and machetes were allegedly produced, as gardaí sealed off a large section of the town.
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheahan, who is a former garda, suggested gardaí used whatever was in their power – including clearing perpetrators from the streets with “batons” – in order to restore order in the town.
Cllr Sheehan warned at a local council meeting last month that “law and order has gone out the window” in Rathkeale.
Videos of the aftermath of violent incidents were shared on social media on Monday, showing several cars extensively damaged and left abandoned on the street and large groups of people recording the carnage on their mobile phones.
Local Fine Gael councillor Adam Tesky said he had been “inundated” with calls and texts from concerned local people.
He called for an armed garda unit to be present in the town for the foreseeable future to restore calm.
“I’m shocked and appalled by this, I have been in touch with the Chief Superintendent’s office and I have made my feelings and concerns, and those of locals, known to him.”
“I understand this is an ongoing garda matter,” said Cllr Tesky.
He commended gardaí who responded to Monday’s violent incidents, but he reiterated “there is an outcry for a more sustained armed garda response in the town”.
In a statement, a garda spokeswoman said: “Gardaí are investigating a public order and dangerous driving incident in Rathkeale, Co. Limerick, this afternoon, 19th December 2022. Gardaí received report of a number of vehicles engaged in dangerous driving on the R523 Road in Rathkeale town and attended the scene.
“Gardaí directed a number of people present to disperse and closed the road for examination.
“Investigations are ongoing. Gardaí are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed this incident to come forward.
“Any road users who were travelling in the Rathkeale area between 2pm and 4pm this afternoon who may have camera footage (including dash cam) is asked to make it available to Gardaí.
“Anyone with any information is asked to contact Rathkeale Garda Station on 069 63 222, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda station.”