The Minister for Justice has condemned what have been described as public order and dangerous driving incidents in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, as members of the garda regional armed support unit arrive to back local officers.
Yesterday afternoon, gardaí in the town responded to a report of a number of vehicles driving dangerously in the town.
When they arrived at the scene, they ordered a number of people to disperse and the road was closed for examination. A number of vehicles abandoned in the road were seized.
It is thought the clashes stem from an ongoing feud between a number of families.
Simon Harris has condemned the incident, saying that what happened was "absolutely unacceptable".
Mr Harris travelled to Co Limerick this evening, where he was briefed by gardaí about the ongoing investigation into yesterday's disturbances.
Speaking afterwards, he condemned the incidents that took place in the town, saying they had no place in a civilised society.
The minister said the events that unfolded in Rathkeale were "abhorrent, utterly unacceptable and would not be tolerated".
He said he had a good meeting with law enforcement officials, during which he committed that any resources required to deal with the problem would be forthcoming from Government.
"I've had a very good meeting with the gardaí here and I made it very clear on behalf of the Government that any resources that are required to support the Gardaí in their work here will be forthcoming," Mr Harris said.
"Obviously, the distribution of resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, but the Government will support the Commissioner and An Garda Síochána in any way that is required," he added.
Earlier, the minister said he was assured that an enhanced policing presence will continue to be part of the policing plan in Rathkeale over Christmas.
The Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, Niall Collins, said that six SUVs were badly damaged in the incident yesterday.
Mr Collins, a Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick, said that there was debris spread across the street after the incident, "spread over possibly an area of 150 yards, 250 yards".
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said that people in the area were "rightly angered" because Rathkeale is a "fine town with some very fine people in the community groups working very hard to enhance and promote the town".
He said that he spoke with the Minister for Justice last night and briefed him on the situation.
Mr Collins also said that the town faces particular challenges at this time of the year when "the population triples or almost quadruples".
"There has to be a dedicated policing plan, a dedicated HSE public health plan has to be rolled out also to ensure proper delivery of public health," he said.
"Lots of traffic issues, lots of policing issues have been arising for the last number of years. The annual policing plan has to be reviewed and approved locally by An Garda Síochána."
Gardai & Armed response units on patrol in #Rathkeale today following public order and dangerous driving incident pic.twitter.com/iD1Wd6wGya— Tomás O Mainnín (@omainnintomas) December 20, 2022
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Joint Policing Committee of Limerick City and County Adam Teskey said it is "grotesque and barbaric behaviour", which is "completely out of the norm for the area".
The Fine Gael councillor called for increased garda resources and emergency legislation to help deal with the problem.
"This grotesque behaviour which occurred yesterday evening has no place in our society whatsoever.
"This barbaric act has to be stopped immediately."
Mr Teskey said law and order must be restored and he called on Minister Harris to visit the town.
He also said that more resources and emergency legislation are needed to deal with the situation.
"My heart goes out to members of An Garda Síochána who have to attend these scenes to try and proactively police these scenes.
"They need more resources urgently and emergency legislation will have to be passed through the Oireachtas to deal with the situation we are having across all our communities in this country."
Gardaí are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed the incident in Rathkeale yesterday afternoon to contact them.
They are asking any road users who were travelling in the Rathkeale area between 2pm and 4pm yesterday, who may have camera footage (including dash cam) 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.
They said no arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing.
In a statement, gardaí said that local policing plans for the Christmas period are assessed after incidents and in line with risks.
They said: "Local garda management across the country put in place local policing plans for the Christmas period.
"These policing plans are monitored and assessed on an ongoing basis and reviewed in line with evolving incidents and risks.
"A policing plan for Rathkeale continues in place, commensurate with the current policing need, primarily based on community engagement and high visibility uniform patrols and static checkpoints, supported where necessary by regional units."