A LOADED sawn-off shotgun and ammunition have been discovered in a graveyard amid fears that a Traveller feud is spiralling out of control.
The find at a cemetery in Tullamore, Co Offaly, comes as senior gardai have expressed concern that no further funding has been made available for a mediation service that officers believe has prevented multiple murders and bloodshed on the streets over the past four years.
The Department of Justice has so far not provided promised money for the employment of two mediators, who have been involved in crucial work for a group called the MTCMI.
A senior source explained: "The mediation services that have been provided by these personnel has been crucial in calming down Traveller feuds over the past three years.
"But no funding has been forthcoming over this year, which has led to worries that Justice is going to cut the funding altogether.
"This would be very counter-productive because the mediation services have helped save gardai hundreds of thousands of euros in overtime costs."
Sources point out that gardai in Waterford spent €400,000 for 12,000 hours of overtime to deal with a Traveller feud in that city in 2008, which was finally halted as a result of mediation.
"This gives you some idea of how much it costs to police these things," the source said.
It is understood that gardai searched Clonminch cemetery in Tullamore yesterday ahead of Cemetery Sunday this weekend.
However, the operation was not linked to another Traveller feud between two extended families that resulted in a serious riot at a cemetery in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, earlier this month.
Up to 100 thugs were involved in the riot and gardai seized blades, golf clubs and hammers at the scene at the Mass for Cemetery Sunday Devotions on August 4.
The riot is linked to ongoing feuding between two families based in Finglas, north Dublin.
The mediation service has not been able to help out in the stopping the latest feud, but gardai have commended its work in defusing a feud in Tullamore, Co Offaly, in which a man was stabbed to death in September 2010.
"Without this mediation all these feuds would have spiralled out of control – the situation would have been far worse if both sides did not have someone they could talk to.
"But that is the situation that we are in now – mediation is quite simply needed in these matters," a senior source explained.
"The situation is unfolding as separate Traveller feuds have been simmering in Tallaght and Mayo in the past week alone."