Mark Francois MP Welcomes Government’s Decision to Adopt the ‘Irish Option’ on Illegal Traveller Encampments

Rayleigh and Wickford MP, Mark Francois, who has been campaigning for years for tougher laws to deal with illegal incursions by Travellers, has warmly welcomed the announcement, this weekend, by Home Secretary and fellow Essex MP, Priti Patel, that the Government, if re-elected, will introduce the so called ‘Irish Option’ to deal with illegal Traveller encampments.

In 2018, Mark led a group of some 60 Conservative MPs, who lobbied Cabinet Ministers to adopt the practice currently undertaken in the Republic of Ireland, of making deliberate acts of trespass a criminal rather than a civil offence. Under the ‘Irish Option’, police officers would be able to rapidly move on anyone, including Travellers, who deliberately encamp on land they do not own and would have the power to arrest them and confiscate their vehicles, if they refuse to comply with a lawful instruction to this effect from a police constable.

The advantage of this method, is that it would avoid a sometimes lengthy and complex process of having to apply for a Court Order, in order to move on Travellers who have encamped illegally on either private or public land. It would thus act as a strong deterrent to such behaviour in future.

Welcoming the decision, Mark Francois MP said:

“As someone who has campaigned for years for tougher laws on Travellers and specifically, for the Government to adopt the ‘Irish Option’, I am absolutely delighted that our new Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, who lives in Essex and is very familiar with the history of this problem, has acted decisively to confirm that the Conservatives will introduce this tough new law, if they are re-elected into Government. For years, I have dealt with numerous frustrated constituents, who have had to deal with illegal Traveller incursions and the one thing I have heard them say, again and again, is that the law should apply equally to both members of the Travelling and the Settled community. This change in the law will help to bring that about, and while many Travellers are law abiding, this will give the police robust powers to deal with those who are not. This is an absolute victory for common sense, and I would like to commend the Home Secretary for her courage in advocating this vital change.”