Mullingar’s Superintendent John Gantly has indicated he is not hopeful of peace between feuding Traveller families as long as fair fights are used to solve disputes.
Superintendent Gantly made his comments while being questioned by Judge Anthony Kennedy at Mullingar Circuit Court about the riot at Dalton Park in July 2008 which involved members of the McDonagh and Dinnegan families against members of the Nevin family.
The court heard it arose out of an alleged debt owed by the Nevins to the McDonaghs and a failure by the families to engage in mediation.
The judge questioned the superintendent on his view of the prognosis for security and public safety.
“This is their way of deciding conflict between families,” said the superintendent, adding that the disputes often arise when bets are not honoured.
“What happened in Mullingar in July went way beyond that.”
He said the fair fights are readily viewable on the internet and continue to happen but are difficult for gardaí to police.
“Substantial money is put on the fights,” he said, adding that when he has brought families in to discuss the issue they say “These fights have to happen”.
He said bail conditions had helped to suppress the rows since the 65 were arrested. The conditions, imposed since July 2008 by Judges Gerard Haughton and John Neilan included curfews and a ban on gathering in groups of more than two.
However he also pointed out that the Midlands Traveller Conflict and Mediation Initiative was in its infancy and could only deal with 10 people at any one time.
“A lot of these people have been engaged in very serious violence,” he said of the 65 before the court.
He said that in the future he would have “serious difficulties” about what might happen.
This was later refuted by those named as the leaders of both factions, Christy ‘Ditsy’ Nevin (55 ), St Michael’s Park, and Anthony Dinnegan (37 ), Macetown, Cloughan both in Mullingar.
Both denied they were ringleaders and said the feud is over.
“There won’t be any more of that in Mullingar ever again,” said Mr Nevin, who added that similar events “will never happen with us, the Dinnegans of McDonaghs ever again”.
Mr Dinnegan agreed, saying they had learned their lesson.
“No one is going to prison and it will learn people to respect and get on with one another, that’s the most important thing and it’s a good thing,” he said.