Action group formed to stop scramblers in Cooleys and Ring of Gullion
A packed and angry public meeting in the Carrickdale Hotel on Wednesday evening unanimously decided to form an Action Group with a clear aim set out in its name – ‘STOP MOUNTAIN SCRAMBLING’ in the Cooleys and Ring of Gullion.
He explained to Newry Times, “The sheep farmers are the first guardians of the mountains and they were well represented at the meeting, particularly from around Annaverna, Doolargy and Ballymakellet which are very badly affected.
“One man told us of ewes breaking legs because of being deliberately chased by scramblers,” he stated.
There is a complete ban on off-road vehicles in the Cooley Mountains, firstly by a county by-law and secondly because it is a Special Area of Conservation under EU law.
The meeting was shown many photographs of deliberate damage to pastures which is now putting Single Farm Payments in danger.
“All this destruction is being done by a handful of irresponsible people, most of it by one gang of less than a dozen people, some of them quite young,” said McGreehan.
“At our meeting we had groups representing the many hundreds of hill-walkers who treat our mountains properly, and we had elected representatives from both sides of the Border.
“And we had An Garda Siochana who made it clear that they have seized scramblers and recreational quads on the mountains before and will do so again. These vandals must pay, and if they are under-age it may be a matter of the parents who bought the scrambler bikes paying.”
Action Group PRO Jock McArdle said they want to mobilise all the hill-walkers who use the Cooleys in particular to help combat the problem. “The Gardai have told us clearly that photos of illegal scrambler and quad activity are useful if people log time and place and are prepared to make a statement, which we will be helping them to do.
“We are setting up a Facebook page where we intend to collect all the photos. Even though the scramblers often have full-face helmets, over time we will be able to identify all the dozen or so bikes that are doing most of the damage so someone will get the knock on the door.”
High-level briefing meetings are being set up in the coming week with An Garda Siochana and with the PSNI, because the scramblers have been using the Border to evade Garda efforts to control the problem.
“No one wants to see dead or injured sheep but there is actually more at stake”, said chairman Matthew McGreehan. “These lads are doing incredibly stupid and dangerous things to evade Garda checkpoints. I would appeal to them and to their parents – stop now before there is a tragedy.”
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