Several public houses and hotels in both the city centre and suburbs kept their doors locked, admitting regulars only, last Friday night and Saturday, amidst fears of a possible violent outbreak at a Traveller funeral.
The city, according to one Waterford business person, was ‘held in a state of terror’. In a letter to The Munster Express the business person, who prefers not to be named, said panic set in when word circulated that the funeral was taking place. “Experience of past occasions gave rise to it”, the letter read. “Bars closed their doors, a greater police presence was evident on the streets and the business community was very apprehensive. As a result tension was increased and the public was terrorised and waiting for a full-scale riot to break out.”
The deceased, Mikey Stokes, from Johnstown, is understood to have been a relative of those on one side of the ongoing dispute which has severely tested local Garda resources over the past three weeks. Mr Stokes was found dead in tragic circumstances in Youghal last week. Gardai maintained a large presence in the Barrack Street area whilst the funeral departed Thompson’s Funeral Home on Friday night and in a number of city estates from Friday and Sunday, with checkpoints in operation on all approach roads into the city.
The full contents of the letter circulated to the media by a Waterford business person read:
‘You cannot weigh worries but many a mother has a heavy heart’. It is with this thought that I would like to express my sympathy to Mrs Stokes, the mother of the young man who died in such sad circumstances last week. Death is a personal time and the grieving can be only felt by those of the family, we can express our thought but we can’t feel the sadness of those close, especially the sadness of the mother.
Having said this, it was unacceptable the way Waterford was held in a state of terror over the past few days. From the time it was heard a Travellers funeral was to take place, panic set in. Experience of past occasions gave rise to it. Bars closed their doors, a greater police presence was evident on the streets and the business community was very apprehensive.
The rumour machine of the public sprang into full operation. As a result tension was increased and the public was terrorised and waiting for a full-scale riot to break out. It did not happen, thanks to the policing of the streets.
The police in Waterford are professional; they know what they are about and have my full confidence. I would do anything they request of me. The way they handled the past few days instilled and increased my respect for their ability. I would ask only one question – why was their action necessary?
Surely a funeral is a time for respect, respect for the feelings of the mourners. It is not a time for excessive drinking, arguing or upsetting local people. If any of those undesirable things take place at such a sad time, the perpetuators have no respect for themselves or the other people involved. They should not be at the funeral and shame on them.’
– Name and address with Editor