By Sean Moriarty
Killarney Gardai, business leaders in the town and rally organisers have all welcomed a recent court decision to disqualify 12 drivers for two years after they were found guilty of dangerous driving while attending this year’s Rally of the Lakes.
The popular event, which this year celebrated its 40thanniversary, has been blighted by anti-social behaviour by these so called boy racers in recent years.
The spectacular two-day motorsport festival has been over-shadowed by the anti-social actions of non-genuine motorsport fans who arrive in Killarney at the same time the rally is in progress.
They engage in dangerous driving and disruptive behaviour but make no contribution to the sport and make no effort to attend official events connected with the popular rally.
Their actions have caused widespread problems for the sport and they are unfairly linked to real supporters. They are a nuisance to the people of Killarney and genuine rally fans are blamed for their actions.
Tired of the bad publicity attached to the boy racers element indirectly connected with the event, event organiser Killarney and District Motor Club joined forces with Killarney Gardai in an effort to stamp out the issues that have blighted recent rallies.
Ahead of this year’s May Bank Holiday weekend rally, both organisations put out the message that boy racers were not welcome at the rally and that anybody found misbehaving or bringing the sport into disrepute would be heavily dealt with by the authorities.
Gardai launched a major undercover operation at this year’s rally. As a result 12 men were arrested on various charges of dangerous driving.
This week the 12 men, two of whom were from Kerry, faced judge David Waters at a special sitting of Killarney District Court. They were found guilty of dangerous driving and received a two-year driving ban.
“I welcome these convictions and the strong sanctions imposed, in particular the two year driving disqualification handed out,” Superintendent Flor Murphy told the Killarney Advertiser.
“These convictions reflect a determined effort by An Garda Siochana and all the other stakeholders who work with us, to make the Rally of the Lakes a better and safer event for all concerned.
An Garda Siochana in Killarney will be relentless in hunting down reckless drivers who flout the law and we will be innovative in utilising every available legal means to gather evidence and bring these individuals before the courts. Not only are these drivers a menace to other road users, they are also destroying our roads in some of the most scenic parts of the county.”
Killarney and District Motor Club also welcomed the convictions as its professionally organised event has been tarnished by the actions of a minority who do not support the event in any way. Aside from the rally, the club puts on a host of other events during rally weekend, including a family friendly ceremonial start on Friday night and a gala prize giving ceremony at The Gleneagle Hotel on Sunday evening. Motor clubs from all over Ireland and the UK supply over 200 volunteer marshals to run the event and it attracts international media coverage.
The boy racer element makes no contribution towards the event and does not visit the live special stages to watch the weekend’s action unfold, instead preferring to cause disruption to the town and its hinterland.
“The motorsport community is aware of the great lengths that our club and event has gone to in order to deal with this issue,” said KDMC Chairman Diarmuid Cronin. “The community of Killarney has been very supportive in our endeavours and these convictions reaffirms our commitment to the community.”
Progressive thinking by the Rally of the Lakes organisers some years ago brought about a successful collaboration with the Gardai resulting in the convictions this week. The Rally of the Lakes directly funded Garda efforts for the last 10 years by investing over €100,000 in that period to the policing operation.
“Our investment in policing our event against the activities of these few sends a clear message that our event will not tolerate this behaviour,” Dermot Healy, Clerk of the Course, said. “We must not lose sight of the genuine motorsport fan, who will always receive a warm Killarney welcome.”
The anti-social behaviour of boy racers has blighted this popular international motorsport event in recent years. Not isolated to the Killarney-based event, other motorsport events have suffered from the same faith. The behaviour of these boy racers has marred the sport and unfairly implicated the genuine motorsport fan.
This year’s rally attracted over 140 rally teams from all over Europe and was buoyed by the appearance of Hollywood A-lister and local hero, Michael Fassbender, who is well known for his love of motorsport. Fassbender competed in this year’s event and was seen by millions across the world promoting the event on the Graham Norton Show.
The event provides a welcome early season boost for Killarney with the town close to 80 percent hotel room capacity during rally weekend.
Gardai, at the time, estimated that there was over 60,000 people in Killarney on the weekend of the rally between those directly involved in the rally and traditional tourists.
Television coverage of the rally, broadcast to several European countries, showcased the natural beauty of the region to millions of more potential future visitors.
“Killarney is known for the welcome it offers visitors and as the events capital of Ireland,” said Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce President Paul Sherry. “The actions of these individuals diminishes enjoyment for the real rally fans and causes an unprecedented nuisance to visitors and locals alike. We welcome these convictions and echo the Gardai and the motor club’s message that these people simply are not welcome in our town.”