Feuding Travellers get garda warning

Kerry’s most senior Garda yesterday warned of firm action against people involved in Traveller feuds.

The latest incident occurred before Christmas when men wearing balaclavas and wielding hammers and sticks struck terror into residents of the Ballyspillane housing estate in Killarney.

One man was arrested and the estate is being kept under Garda surveillance.

While such incidents involving settled Travellers are new to Killarney, a feud involving up to four families has resulted in violent incidents in Tralee and Castleisland over the past three years. The Killarney incident is not linked to the incidents in Tralee and Castleisland, according to gardaí.

More than 30 people have been brought before the courts in Tralee, arising from clashes between rival Traveller families. The armed Garda Emergency Response Unit has been deployed to deal with incidents in Tralee on at least three occasions.

There have been fights on the streets with a variety of weapons used, such as slash-hooks and baseball bats.

There has also been violence at funerals, including one of a man and his daughter who died in a fire in Tralee last May.

Chief Supt Pat Sullivan, Tralee, said such behaviour would not be tolerated.

“Where evidence is available, people will be prosecuted and dealt with swiftly by the courts,” he said.

“A number of people have already been convicted in connection with incidents in Tralee are currently serving jail sentences. Other cases are pending and will be coming before the courts in 2013.”

Martin Collins, of the Pavee Point Traveller Centre, appealed earlier this year to warring Travellers in Tralee to refrain from violence and to take a “step back”.

Two local families are believed to be involved in the Killarney feud. In a follow-up search of the Ballyspillane estate, gardaí seized a baseball bat, hammers, and other weapons.

Residents reported seeing men in balaclavas drive up to a house in a car, calling on the occupants to come out and fight.

However, no physical clashes took place and gardaí have since been engaging with the families involved in an effort to reduce tensions.

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