Saturday 25 May 2019

Riot families spurned peace bid

Eimear Ni Bhraonain and Anita Guidera

GARDAI made intensive efforts to try to prevent Tuesday's riot between two Traveller families from happening, it has emerged.

A mediator had been called in to try to stop the two families in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, from fighting some days before the riot.

However, key members of the McDonagh and Nevin families refused to meet the mediator.

Violence erupted in the Dalton Park housing estate on Tuesday in a row involving 200 people. Petrol bombs, stones, chainsaws, golf clubs, a samurai sword and other dangerous missiles were used in the clashes. The row has been described by an eyewitness as "like a scene from 1980s' Belfast".

The reason for the escalation of the dispute has not been confirmed. However, residents in Dalton Park believe it is linked to a bare-knuckle fight between two Travellers in Co Meath recently.

There are suggestions a large sum of money was at stake and that a gambling bet may not have been settled, leading to Tuesday's dispute.

Neighbours of the feuding families in Mullingar said the riot began after a number of Travellers from outside the area arrived in Dalton Park and name calling started.

It is understood a number of people related to the two families involved, who had "no business" in Mullingar, travelled to the area yesterday to engage in violence.

A resident who is related to one of the families involved in the dispute told the Irish Independent: "They were calling names and that's how it all blew up. They were shouting up the road saying that they were going to carry on and all that.

"There was fair fighting and a young fella won and they (one family) couldn't take a beating," she added.

Yesterday, gardai continued to routinely patrol the estate, but no further incidents were reported.

Residents expressed their relief that peace was restored to the estate.

Rejected

Traveller representative group Pavee Point rejected claims that the incidents were sparked by a King of the Travellers fist fight.

A leading Traveller representative warned yesterday that more lives will be lost with the worsening nature and intensity of violence among feuding factions.

Martin Collins, assistant director of Pavee Point, was speaking in Letterkenny at a seminar on building relationships between the media and Travellers and other ethnic minorities in Donegal. He condemned the violence in Mullingar, and in Waterford several weeks ago.

But he said that the most difficult problem was how society could collectively address the problem of resolving the various conflicts, which were happening among a small minority of Traveller families.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, and many Travellers will agree with me, that the nature and intensity of violence within the Traveller community is changing and it's getting really, really serious."

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