Pavee Point ‘alarmed’ over post-wedding gathering in Longford

Fastfood outlet gets €3,000 takeaway order to cater for marquee celebration

Gardaí near marquee in Co Longford

Gardaí near marquee in Co Longford

 

The co-director of Traveller advocacy group Pavee Point said he was “alarmed” read of a post-wedding gathering in Longford on Wednesday night.

Martin Collins called on members of the Traveller community to respect and obey public health guidelines and warned that large gatherings “must be avoided at all costs”.

Mr Collins was speaking after some 120 guests attended a post-wedding celebration involving members of the Traveller community in a marquee in Co Longford on Wednesday night despite an earlier court order for the structure to be dismantled.

“ I am very alarmed, I am very concerned and again I would plead with members of my own community to please display a little bit more responsibility and protect ourselves, protect our families and protect our community.”

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Collins said the message from Pavee Point had been clear and consistent on public health guidelines. “All large gatherings must be avoided at all costs.”

“I would appeal to every member of our community to display more responsibility,” he said.

On Thursday it emerged that a €3,000 takeaway bill was placed to cater for up to 200 guests at the party from a local fast food outlet in the hours leading up to yesterday’s celebrations.

The local authority secured a Circuit Court order in Sligo on Wednesday morning for the structure’s removal, following its emergence less than 24 hours earlier.

Several units of uniformed gardaí were drafted in to maintain a “watching brief” at the site on Wednesday afternoon in a bid to prevent any unrest.

It is understood the marquee remained in place however and the wedding party returned to the venue later on in the evening.

A number of the wedding party guests had earlier attended a ceremony at St Mel’s Cathedral ahead of the after-party.

Pavee Point co-director Ronnie Fay pointed out that it was a minority of Travellers who have not adhered to public health guidance. “The majority of Travellers have been exemplary and have really done their best to protect themselves and their families,” she told RTE Radio..

“Unfortunately the spotlight gets focused on large attendance at funerals or a wedding like in Longford - unfortunately the whole community gets stigmatised by that. We don’t condone that behaviour, we’ve said it is unacceptable for anybody, including Travellers, to have large gatherings during a pandemic, unfortunately the whole Traveller community gets stigmatised and vilified when some Travellers don’t adhere to public health guidelines.”

Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council, Cllr Paul Ross, criticised the decision to construct the large-scale marquee, insisting local authority officials had been left with little choice but to seek an emergency court order.

Mr Collins said Travellers needed to protect themselves, their families and their community from Covid-19. There would be more deaths if everyone did not act with collective responsibility, he said. “Please respect and obey public health guidelines.”

There were 16 new Covid-19 outbreaks and 65 new cases of the disease in the Traveller community notified to the health service in the past week, according to latest figures.

The number of new outbreaks in that community in the week ending May 1st was double the number notified the previous week, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre statistics show.

An outbreak is defined as two or more linked cases of the disease.

The new cases bring to 3,608 laboratory-confirmed cases of the disease in the 35,000-strong Traveller community reported in the third wave of the disease that began before Christmas.

According to the statistics, 155 members of the Traveller community have been hospitalised with the disease since the third wave, 22 have required critical care and eight have died.

Ms Fay said the high incidence rate among Travellers showed the urgency of vaccinating them as soon as possible.

She attributed the high infection rate, amounting to about one in every 10 members of the community, to underlying health issues and overcrowded living conditions with Travellers having the biggest families yet the fewest rooms per family compared with the wider population.