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The Singing Hands of Fola Tarbh, R. Wren

Dispute over Fola Tarbh Field Continues; Gardaí Warn Against ‘Hoaxsters’

Speaking this week to residents of the beleaguered Greenhills housing development, Sergeant Hugh Fitzsimons of the Osraige Garda Station addressed, for the first time, accusations of strange behaviour on the contested Fola Tarbh property.

‘I’ve heard some reports from residents, yes,’ Sergeant Fitzsimons said, in response to a question from a local woman. ‘No official complaint has been made as yet. However I’d warn members of the public against entering the property, particularly for the purposes of investigating disturbances. If you have a concern, please bring it to us.’

When urged by a representative of the Greenhills Residents Association to bring a formal warning against Fola Tarbh claimant Diarmuid O’Neill, Sergeant Fitzsimons refused.

‘I understand that some people are fairly upset. But these bizarre stories which have been reaching us, late-night singing and disembodied hands, they are not grounds for a formal warning. According to the legal advice we’ve been given, the property is Diarmuid O’Neill’s, at least until an injunction is issued. As such I’d advise that everybody tries to keep their heat down, refrain from trespassing on the Fola Tarbh field, and go through the proper channels.’

This is just the latest chapter in the ongoing dispute between the Greenhills Resident’s Association and local man Diarmuid O’Neill. Since planning permission was first sought to relieve housing pressure in the area by expanding the Greenhills Housing Estate into the derelict property known locally as Fola Tarbh, the dispute has evolved into a bitter and increasingly bizarre clash between the two parties.

Speaking outside of the District Court in April, Mr. O’Neill (age 79) gave his reasons for objecting as follows.

‘The field is not derelict. It is preserved. My Grand-Father tended it in his time, and I have kept the odd eye on it since. It was understood that Fola Tarbh was to be left undisturbed in his day, there was no need for a deed or anything like that. If these developers insist on building into it, they’ll come to no good at all.’

Questioned at the time, O’Neill denied that his statement was intended as a threat. Nonetheless, that is how it has been interpreted by the Residents’ Association, who now point to it as proof that O’Neill is behind the recent strange phenomena.

‘Shouts, cries and other things have been heard from the field at all hours,’ said resident Richard Clare, speaking to this paper. ‘A man has been heard to sing and babble along the property line, well into the night. The old wall faces the back of my house, where my children‘s bedrooms are. They’ve heard it several times since all this started.’

A number of residents have echoed Mr. Clare’s remarks. They report hearing a man’s voice – usually described as ‘drunk’ or ‘emotional’ – singing sporadically in the early-morning hours from the field. The voice, they claim, often ceases suddenly in one corner of Fola Tarbh only to abruptly begin again in an opposite corner. This has led some residents to point the finger at Diarmuid O’Neill, accusing the local man of employing a group of men for the purposes of a truly unorthodox campaign of obstruction and intimidation.

Richard Clare, however, insists that the same voice is heard regardless of its movement – and that the voice is not Diarmuid O’Neill’s.

‘There’s only one voice, I’ve no doubt about that,’ he told this paper. ‘A young voice, but as though heard through water. I haven’t yet identified any of the songs. Either the singer is slurring his words, or he’s singing in some foreign language – or old Irish, maybe. But it’s the same voice, night after night. I really have no doubt on that account.’

Accounts of anti-social singing in a residential area may not, on their own, be cause for further scrutiny. While the Osraige Garda Station’s failure to censure Mr. O’Neill has been a source of much frustration for the Greenhills Residents Association, the saga may nonetheless have faded away into yet another local dispute.

That is, if it weren’t for the hands.

‘I’ve personally seen the hands on several occasions,’ said one Greenhills resident, who asked not to be named for fear of judgement. ‘Not many residents will admit to it publically, but we’ve all seen them. I believe Sergeant Fitzsimons has received close to a dozen reports of them at this rate. Ask around quietly, and I’ve no doubt you’ll hear even more. Two hands they are, pawing at the hedgerows as if trying to find a way out. Totally disembodied - floating. Bronze and shrivelled they are, as if they just came out of the bog.’

When asked to comment on these reports – which can only be described, as Sergeant Fitzsimons put it aptly, as bizarre - Diarmuid O’Neill replied with a statement which can be best characterized as cryptic itself.

‘Something there is that calls Fola Tarbh home. All land is home to someone. We all have a right to live somewhere. But Fola Tarbh is taken. It’s not mine, and it’s not theirs either. I just steward it, that’s all. Maybe once, somebody wandered through. I just want to make sure it stays safe, now, for my span. That’s all I want. They can build their houses somewhere else, can’t they?’

With Mr. O’Neill and the Greenhill Residents’ Association still at loggerheads, a case working slowly through the courts, and Sergeant Fitzsimons seemingly reluctant to become involved, it seems that the Fola Tarbh development plans will remain at a standstill for the time being.

We asked Richard Clare to tell us what impact the dispute is having on the families caught in the middle.

‘I won’t let my children play in Fola Tarbh,’ he told us. ‘They wouldn’t want to, even if I let them. There’s something unsavoury in that field. I won’t pretend to know what it is. And if those houses ever get built – God bless anybody who tries to live in them, at this rate.’


R. Wren (they/them) is an English teacher in training. They are drawn to all things ghostly. They create and collect scrap paper of all varieties. Twitter at: @ro_is_etc.

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