Travellers' organisation condemns riot


A DISPUTE between two feuding families in Co Westmeath which escalated into a riot yesterday has been condemned by the national Travellers' organisation Pavee Point.

Eight people were arrested following the violence, which broke out on the Dalton Park housing estate in Mullingar at noon and later in the day spread to the Midlands Regional Hospital in the town.

The incident has been connected to a long-running feud between the two families in the Mullingar area.

Two petrol bombs, stones, slates and bricks were hurled during the disturbance in the estate, which gardaí said involved some 200 people. One house was badly damaged during the incident.

Local and regional gardaí, as well as members of the Garda public order unit, air support unit and dog unit, were drafted in to restore order in the estate. A Garda vehicle was damaged.

Three men aged between 30 and 50 and an elderly woman were arrested at the scene. All were held for questioning at Mullingar Garda station and the woman was later released.

Four people received treatment at the Midlands Regional Hospital. One person was detained with head injuries which gardaí said were not life-threatening, while the others were treated for lacerations to their arms and faces.

The violence flared up again later in the afternoon at the Midlands Regional Hospital while those injured in the Dalton Park incident received treatment.

Martin Collins of the Traveller organisation Pavee Point called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

"These senseless disputes don't solve anything, and violence between members of the community only serves to further damage the reputation of Travellers, and alienate innocent members of the community from wider society," he said. "Those involved must end their violence and sit down to discuss their issues, before someone is seriously injured."

Mr Collins rejected the notion that the violence was the result of an organised dispute or "King of the Travellers-style event".

James Bannon, a Fine Gael TD for the Longford-Westmeath area, condemned the actions as "irresponsible" and "dangerous".

"Thankfully no one was seriously injured but it is a cause of grave concern for health and safety that petrol bombs were thrown during the incident . . . the fact that 200 people were involved at the scene is particularly worrying," he said.

Cars entering and leaving the Dalton Park estate were being searched by gardaí last night after checkpoints were set up to prevent further violence.