There's 'no doubt' people were travelling from well over 5km away to visit the snowy Wicklow Mountains over the weekend, a local councillor has said.
Concerns have been raised about the number of so-called 'snow tourists' who visited popular upland areas last week and over the weekend, amid extremely cold weather conditions.
Garda checkpoints and patrols were in place, with 17 fixed charge notices for illegal parking issued at one popular Wicklow spot - Luggala - on Thursday alone.
Public health advice is to avoid crowded areas and amenities.
If parking facilities at such locations are closed, do not park illegally as this can hinder access by emergency services. An Garda Síochána will be patrolling these locations and will enforce parking regulations. pic.twitter.com/SMR9fiUbdc
— An Garda Síochána (@GardaTraffic) January 10, 2021
A number of cars are also reported to have been towed away over the weekend.
Shay Cullen - a Fine Gael Councillor in Wicklow - told Newstalk Breakfast that there was quite a lot of traffic in areas such as the Wicklow / Sally gaps, as well as the Glencree and Crone Woods areas of Enniskerry.
He said: “In fairness to the gardaí, they had been updating their Facebook pages - together with Wicklow County Council - to ask people to stay away. The Sally Gap was impassable for a period of time.
“Unfortunately people didn’t heed this, and there was a lot of traffic - particularly on Saturday and Sunday - which caused difficulties, particularly for the gardaí. Certainly there were checkpoints set up to try to turn people back at the likes of Kilmacanogue."
Councillor Cullen said there's no question people were breaching the current 5km travel restrictions in order to travel to the snowy mountains.
He observed: “With the cold, frosty, snowy weather there was an increase in what we’d term as snow tourists. There were a couple of incidents with people getting stuck and having to be towed away.
"A lot of these people weren’t even close to their 5km radius.”
Councillor Cullen said mountain rescue teams were also out alongside gardaí to try to help clear away illegally parked cars.
However, he said the situation could have become particularly dangerous if there had been any emergency that needed to be responded to.
He said: “The concerning part of this is if the emergency services had been needed for a particular incident, they wouldn’t have been able to get through - the roads were completely blocked off.
“If you don’t have a need to be the uplands area, don’t be there: It’s creating problems, and safety is paramount in these situations.”