Two people arrested following Traveller funeral in Leitrim

Gardaí issue 80 fixed penalty notices after 300 mourners gather in Carrick-on-Shannon

The funeral of Davey Reilly arriving  at St Mary’s Cemetery in Carrick-on-Shannon.

The funeral of Davey Reilly arriving at St Mary’s Cemetery in Carrick-on-Shannon.

 

Two people have been arrested and more than 80 fixed penalty notices handed out following a Traveller funeral in Carrick-on-Shannon on Thursday, which attracted nearly 300 mourners despite Covid-19 restriction rules.

Following the burial at St Mary’s Cemetery in the Leitrim town, large numbers went to a marquee on a local halting site, with some mourners breaking through a Garda cordon to get there.

Principal of Scoil Mhuire in Carrick-on-Shannon, Caroline Healy, has written to the parents of her Traveller pupils, expressing sympathy on their loss, but reminding them to follow necessary precautions, including quarantine.

Saying she legally cannot stop any pupil from attending, Mrs Healy said: “My hands are tied, I have no right to stop anybody from returning to school but there are concerns among the staff and from parents,” she said.

Local concern

Edwina Cahill, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation staff representative at the school, said locals were very concerned about next week’s reopening: “We can see exactly what’s been going on and all the rules that were broken.”

Some parents are considering keeping their children out of school, said Killian Kuehl, chairman of the school’s parents’ association. “Some people have a real fear about it. The school is doing everything they can,” he said.

Independent TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marian Harkin said locals were “disgusted” by the conduct and extremely angry that the gardaí did not prevent people coming to the town.

“People can’t understand why the gardaí didn’t deal with it. What happened when some of these cars with English registrations came to the roadblocks? If it was you or me outside our 5k, we would be turned back.”

“Had anyone checked if they had done their mandatory quarantine is another question? From reports there are many Great Britain car registrations in the area,” the TD said.

Demanding a Garda explanation, Ms Harkin said: “Maybe the gardaí didn’t want confrontation, a funeral is a time when there are heightened emotions and I can understand that they might have stood back at the graveyard.

“I am not saying that was right, but I understand if that was the case. If people were making an effort, wearing masks, not crowding together then you could say, look, they were making an effort.

“But none of that happened and, subsequently, this marquee was set up. It is beyond belief they [gardaí] did not go in, no one should have been at this marquee. Travellers are doing themselves no favours.

“This reinforces whatever prejudices are there. People will say it is one law for us and another for them. This goes way beyond discretion. There is an element of lawlessness,” she said.

Pavee Point reaction

Highly critical of the numbers who turned up, co-director of Pavee Point, Martin Collins, said it was not acceptable that hundreds of people ignored public health restrictions. Such actions were “very concerning”.

Funerals were an important part of Traveller tradition, he said, but cultural norms and traditions would have to take a back seat during a pandemic. More people will die from Covid-19 if the rules are not obeyed.

The large marquee erected ahead of the funeral was full on Wednesday night. Portaloos were also erected and a UK-registered jeep was parked across the entrance to the estate to block unwanted vehicles entering.

Following the funeral, a large number of mourners who had initially been turned away gathered on foot in a nearby car park and ran through a Garda checkpoint and made their way to the marquee.