Saturday 24 February 2018

Travellers vow to end feuding after judge lets 65 walk free

Claire O'Brien

THE "ringleader" of a Traveller feud who ignited a riot after exposing his backside to a rival family has vowed the long-running dispute is over.

Christy 'Ditsy' Nevin (55) was speaking as a group of 65 people escaped jail for their part in a riot in Dalton Park, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, in July 2008.

Judge Anthony Kennedy handed down suspended sentences of between one and four years to Mr Nevin and 62 others -- including a woman -- charged with violent disorder.

Two teenage girls also received community service in connection with the incident.

"There won't be any more of that in Mullingar ever again," said Mr Nevin on the steps of the Tullamore Courthouse where Mullingar Circuit Court was sitting yesterday.

He said the feud between three families -- the Dinnegans/McDonaghs and the Nevins -- was over.

"It will never happen with us, the Dinnegans or McDonaghs ever again," said Mr Nevin, of St Michael's Park, Mullingar.

Moments earlier, there had been scenes of jubilation in the courthouse as the judge said all of the sentences would be suspended for three years on condition there were no further feud-related offences. The court heard that the background to the riot was rooted in money.

Members of the Nevin family owed money to the McDonaghs; the Dinnegan family had sided with the McDonaghs.

Mediation between the families had failed.

In the days leading up to the riot, tensions heightened so much that gardai received a number of 999 calls from the public. A small number of gardai were dealing with the crowds on July 29 when Christy 'Ditsy' Nevin dropped his trousers and flashed at the McDonagh and Dinnegan families, infuriating them.

Videos

Two videos of the riot were shown in court, one taken from the window of a house in Dalton Park, the other from a garda helicopter.

They showed scenes of chaos, with people throwing stones from supermarket trolleys and wielding swords, spades, baseball bats and other items.

Some of the feuders were seen shadow-boxing and dancing as they moved to evade missiles.

Superintendent John Gantly said strict bail conditions imposed since the men were arrested had kept the peace, but he expressed concern about "serious difficulties" in the future because of the Traveller tradition of settling disputes via "fair fights".

However, the two men named as ringleaders, and who both received four-year suspended sentences, said the dispute between the families was now over.

Anthony Dinnegan (37), of Macetown, Cloughan, said he was a very happy man.

"Thanks be to God and his blessed mother that no one is going to prison and it will learn people to respect and get on with one another, that's the most important thing and it's a good thing," he said.

Irish Independent

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