A MASS street brawl between hundreds of travellers was narrowly averted yesterday when gardai brokered a peace deal between two families who have been engaged in a long-running feud.A MASS street brawl between hundreds of travellers was narrowly averted yesterday when gardai brokered a peace deal between two families who have been engaged in a long-running feud.
But gardai in Tuam, Co Galway and in Galway city are remaining on high alert amid fears that the truce could collapse and erupt into a riot in estates in the county.
More than 200 members of the Ward clan and an equal number of the McDonagh and Sweeney clans gathered in Tuam yesterday after one side challenged the other to a street fight.
Members of the Ward, McDonagh and Sweeney families arrived from all over the country and this led to the build-up of travellers in the Parkmore Estate and Gilmartin Road areas.
For years fights and near-riots have been a frequent feature at meetings between the clans, including weddings and funerals.
The latest stand-off arose from a bare-knuckle brawl between several men in the town square last Friday. The street fight brought traffic to a standstill as hundreds of people rushed to watch the fight. Dozens of extra gardai were drafted in to police the estates.
Several men who participated in that brawl are to face charges in the coming weeks.
An assortment of weapons, including pick-axe handles were seized by gardai yesterday in a swoop on the two groupings.
As fears of a violent riot grew, four members from the Ward family and four from the McDonagh/Sweeney family were brought to the garda station to take part in negotiations in a bid to find a settlement.
The heated face-to-face talks could be heard through the windows of the garda station and after 90 minutes the two sides emerged after agreeing to disperse.
However, they refused to answer questions from the media.
One senior family figure, Mike Ward, said ``It's all sorted, genuine and in writing. What more do you want?''
Sligoman delegate Patrick Sweeney, said: ``We've kissed and made up and we're great friends now. It's all over.''
Tuam Superintendent Bill Fennell, who chaired the negotiations, said he was confident a settlement had been reached.
``This was the first time the two sides got together to discuss their grievances, and they have reached agreement. I would be confident it will work,'' he said.
The news of the negotiations was delivered back to the travellers on the opposite sides of the town and they dispersed soon afterwards. However, many of the outside travellers were still in the town last night and gardai are monitoring the situation.
The move was welcomed by Ellen Mongan the first member of Ireland's travelling community to be elected to public office when she became a member of Tuam's Town Commission two years ago.
``I hope will be seen as the way forward for other areas of conflict,'' she said.