Gardaí clampdown on spate of violent Irish Traveller feuds in Longford
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Gardaí clampdown on spate of violent Irish Traveller feuds in Longford

AUTHORITIES in Co. Longford have been clamping down on Traveller violence following a series of of recent ugly incidents.

The disputes, involving 14 Traveller families, were first sparked in January 2019.

It's understood that the violence originally stemmed from an incident involving youngsters and has since spread to the wider Traveller community.

Remarkably, considering the level of violence employed by the feuding families - including shootings, stabbings, arson attacks, and instances of violent disorder - there have been no fatalities so far.

One teenager was however left in need of 500 stiches after being brazenly attacked with a carving knife in a shopping centre.

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Another shocking incident occurred last week where a woman was targeted and then brutally pummelled in a house in Moate near Athlone by two suspects involved in the feud.

Several of the feuding parties have links to Patrick 'Pa' McGinley, recently jailed along with his son for killing his uncle Barney St Mary's Church in Newtownbutler, Co. Fermanagh in February 2015.

The eruption of violence has left some in the local community fearful of the fallout and has prompted a wide-scale police response.

Under 'Operation Stola', Gardaí have initiated a considerable crackdown on the families' activities in and around Longford town and the south Longford area more broadly.

A number of items, including machetes, sawn-off shotguns, hatchets, hockey sticks, carving knives, bricks, pitchforks and a variety of other weapons, have been seized since the operation began.

Gardaí have been liaising with the Midland Traveller Mediation Service and Pavee Point to defuse the bitter interfamilial tensions and to tackle the problem at both a criminal and community level.

Speaking to the Irish Sun, Supt Jim Delaney who heads up the team said: "Our priority is to keep people safe in Longford and we will continue to do this with a strong policing presence in the area.

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"We are assisting the organisations involved in the mediation process over the feuds but this is not a 'get out of jail free' card - if someone commits a criminal offence and there is evidence they will be prosecuted.

"We have regular checkpoints, high visibility policing and we continually disrupt the activities of those engaged in serious crime."

Throughout 2020, 13 people pleaded guilty to offences related to the feuds, including possession of offensive weapons and violent disorder.

Under court orders, the defendants paid a total €19,500 to Longford-based charities.

In June 2020 alone, three men were handed suspended sentences and obliged to contribute €5,000 contribution toward St Vincent de Paul.

Two juveniles are also due to be sentenced for their role in a machete attack on another teenager in December 2019.

Supt Delaney said: "We have also had tremendous support from our colleagues in the national units and that extra level of expertise necessary when dealing with organised crime gang activity.

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"There is a great determination and willingness among the men and women of the Longford district and the wider Garda organisation to protect both the residential and business community in this area.

"We have benefited from the administrative support of our Garda staff members and the solid backing of our divisional officer Chief Supt Tony Healy. It is very much a team effort."