Resident’s ‘under siege’ call for nightly lockdown at Slieve Gullion

September 17, 2018

Concerned residents from Slieve Gullion’s Forest Park area are calling on Newry Mourne and Down District Council to lock the gates to the scenic forest drive at night following reports of an increasing number of “disturbing” incidents of illegal activity in the forest drive area in recent weeks.

Locals living in the Ring of Gullion’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty say they are “under siege”, with groups of “twenty to thirty souped up vehicles rallying up Slieve Gullion driving the wrong way up the mountain” on a nightly basis.

With tyre dumping and fly tipping having blighted the area for several years, residents say they are shocked to discover the forest drive is also being used as a “dog fighting” venue, with two locals reporting that “organised dog fighting” has taken place in car parks along the scenic forest drive over the last number of weeks..

Despite the deer population in the AONB being kept under control by the Forestry Service, residents say illegal deer poaching is rife, with groups of hunters spotted in 4×4 vehicles, stalking deer in the area just days ago. 

Speaking to The Examiner about the ongoing issues, one horrified local said,

“Things are out of control and the activities that are taking place are dangerous and a threat to walkers, wildlife and the environment.  We’ve had reports of people coming to the forest over the summer to burn wire for copper in the only area of the forest which houses Pine Martens and Red Squirrels. We have constant fly tipping, dumping of tyres, joyriding, illegal hunting and now dog fighting it seems!”

“There are so many local people who are working hard to maintain the mountain and preserve the little wildlife we have left after Forestry cut the trees. When the Forestry were in control they drove around the mountain advising people the gates were being locked so everyone could make their way out and once locked we didn’t have any of these issues. 

“It seems logical to just lock the gate at night time, preventing access for a lot of these illegal activities to happen.  Some residents have even offered to lock the gates for the Council but this has been ignored.’

“The Council seem interested only in the courtyard area, despite a number of these incidents being brought to their attention.  We think it’s time they saw sense and locked the gates at night to protect nearby residents and the environment.”

Slieve Gullion Sinn Fein Councillor,  Mickey Larkin said all the activities mentioned by the residents “are illegal and are cause for concern.”

The Slieve Gullion representative said he has reported numerous incidents on Slieve Gullion to the police, “who have responded and have made arrests in the past.” 

“The council have recently entered into a license agreement with the Forestry for the whole of the forest drive,” he added,

“I have discussed with council officials the issues around dumping, vandalism, dangerous driving and access to the drive after closing time. It has been many years since the exit gate was locked at night by the Forestry Service, however I have requested a review of this now that the Council have responsibility. 

“Slieve Gullion is an incredible asset to this region and both locals and visitors are disgusted by the actions of those who blight the area by fly tipping or by dangerous and illegal activities.

“I would encourage anyone who witnesses these activities to contact the police.”