There is a disquieting culture of violence in Ireland’s Travelling community. Monday’s shooting in west Dublin, in which a woman, an eight-month-old baby, and a boy (17) were injured by a shotgun blast is the latest example of inter-family feuding violence.
Such behaviour is not confined to Dublin. Last September, 50 gardaí raided a number of homes in Knocknaheeney, on the northside of Cork, after a shocking video was posted on social media, showing a number of heavily armed Travellers goading and threatening a rival group.
During the searches, gardaí seized a huge haul of firearms and ammunition, along with slash hooks, knives, and other assorted weapons.
In seizing those weapons, the gardaí prevented a violent escalation of a Traveller feud. Among the items were a sawn-off shotgun, a rifle with a telescopic sight, ammunition, swords, machetes, slash hooks, balaclavas, and pickaxe handles.
There have been other, equally horrifying videos, posted online, which show that the promotion of violence can be inter-generational. In 2015, in one video, a grandmother dances with a pump action shotgun in a caravan, while in another a young male Traveller goads his rivals and also brandishes a shotgun.
Traveller representative groups have expressed concern over the incident in west Dublin, but have not expressly condemned it.
Pavee Point spokesman, Martin Collins, urged the parties involved in the incident to avail of conflict resolution.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Collins said he knew some of the individuals involved and warned that if there was not a resolution, there was a potential for escalation and “lives could be lost”.
A member of Blanchardstown Travellers’ Support Group went as far as claiming that the local authority had a role to play in the shooting incident. Catherine Joyce told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the local authority knew the family involved was in crisis and that if one of the parties had been moved off the site, this incident might not have occurred.
Pavee Point, an organisation aimed at improving the quality of life and circumstances of Irish Travellers, has been vocal in dispelling myths about the community. That is a very worthwhile thing to do, as there is a great deal of ignorance about, and prejudice against, Travellers. It is also true that unemployment among Travellers remains extremely high — in the region of 75%-80% — and much of that has to be as a result of the refusal of many businesses to hire them.
Such a valuable support group would do themselves, and the community they seek to help, a great service by acknowledging that violence among certain sections of Travellers is a problem.
Without that express acknowledgement, there is little prospect of a resolution and the danger is that the level of violence will escalate.