Judge hits out as Garda required at court to prevent further violence in Traveller feud

By Gordon Deegan

A circuit court judge has hit out at the ‘absolutely outrageous’ conduct of feuding traveller families in Ennis telling them that it is ordinary workers who are funding their legal aid.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys told members of the feuding Sherlock and Molloy families that “you have disgraced your fellow travellers in the way that you have behaved”.

Judge Keys said that he was also conscious that the accused were on legal aid.

He said: “We have to pay for this. Everyone who is working in this country, who pays a tax, have got to pay for your defence - look at the amount of previous convictions all of you have together - and the ordinary working person who complies with the law in this country has to finance that.”

Generic image of garda at work

In court, members of the two families appeared in connection with a confrontation on the steps of Ennis courthouse on June 20th 2017 when two courts were in session.

At the sentencing hearing of members of the two families at the circuit court, Gardai were taking no chances over a repeat with 17 uniformed Gardai, including two sergeants, along with three members of the regional armed support unit at the courthouse to monitor the situation.

In hitting out at the accused, Judge Keys referred to the strong Garda presence when he said: “Look at the amount of police that have to be here today. The cost of that. The cost of all of this.”

As part of the security measures, Gardai placed the three accused from the Molloy family, James Molloy (19), Thomas Molloy (25) and Laura Molloy (26) all with addresses at the Ballaghboy Halting Site, Quin Road, Ennis in the jury box. All pleaded guilty to affray on June 20th 2017

The accused from the Sherlock family, James Sherlock (48) and his son Declan Sherlock (23) who pleaded guilty to a breach of the peace on the day were placed on the opposite side of the courtroom. Declan Sherlock has 24 previous convictions and James Sherlock has 21 previous convictions including one for assault causing serious harm where he received a six year prison term in 2003.

Addressing the accused, Judge Keys said: “All of you think you can do what you like - that you can ignore every law.”

He said: “You are a disgrace to the travelling community, so you are, the way that you have carried on. You are wondering then why a lot of people give out and discriminate. Just ask yourselves that. A lot of this is being brought on by your conduct, your total neglect of what the law is.”

He told both sides: “If there is a bark out of any of ye towards one other, inside court, outside court, you will get the maximum sentences and that should be a deterrent in itself which would relieve so many of the Gardai to attend here."

Garda Noelle Bergin told the court that relations between the two feuding families are still volatile.

Counsel for James Sherlock, Brian McInerney BL said that efforts for both sides to enter mediation are underway. He said: “There is a desire to try to put an end to this and there have been efforts since May to bring an end to this nomadic feud.”

Mr McInerney said that Mr Sherlock has relocated his family away from Ennis to another part of the country.

Judge Keys said that none of the parties have indicated a plan to settle this dispute before now. Judge Keys said that the feud “has been going on and on and on and on”.

Judge Keys said that he was so ‘frustrated’ and ‘annoyed’ with what he has heard that he would not pass sentence now and adjourned sentencing to October.

Mr McInerney said when sentence is passed in October, there would be a more wholesome picture of mediation.

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