Tempers have flared during the 11.30am service at St Mary’s parish church because of the disturbance but matters came to a head recently when one woman from the congregation stood up during Mass and hit out at the ongoing disruption in church by young Travellers and the manner in which Traveller girls dressed.
Now the choir has had enough and said they will no longer sing at the 11.30am Mass on Sunday unless something is done to address the problems of noisy parishioners arriving late. Many local worshippers have also complained about scantily dressed Traveller girls in church.
Up to 900 of Rathkeale’s population of 1,800 belong to the settled Traveller community who own most of the houses in the town.
Parish priest, Canon Joseph Dempsey, said he could not get involved in the controversy.
“I am not going to get involved in this controversy. You can see my position. It is blown out of all proportion.”
Noel White, chairman of the Rathkeale Community Council and a member of the choir, said some of the choir felt not enough was being done to keep order in church during Mass.
“My interpretation of this is the priests have to cover themselves, because there could be cries of discrimination. I suppose what was said (by the woman at Mass) they had to distance themselves from.
“In fairness to Canon Dempsey, he’s been saying it Sunday after Sunday about people turning up late. It’s difficult to know what to do. You can’t close the door to the church. Hopefully the choir will be going back in the next two or three weeks, and we’ll be back looking for new members as always.”
A spokesman for Travellers rights group Pavee Point, Ben Archibald, said it was important that both sides of the community meet and air their grievances on the issue.
“I’m certain a resolution can be found. Both sides need to sit down with the local priests, constructively air their grievances and come to an understanding.
“It does seem the issues of late arrivals and dress can be resolved with good will and respect for other people, as long as there is respect for the traditions of the Church and the traditions of the Travelling community.”