The Traveller feud in Waterford continues apace and, as certain matters are being processed through the courts, it is best not to dwell too much on specifics other than to hope that an end to the whole sorry episode is not too far away. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, and no matter who is guilty or innocent, the feud has set back by years relations between the settled and Travelling communities.
Members of the settled community have been terrorised and traumatised by having had the misfortune to have been close to some of the action but, in the end, the long-term victims will be those members of the Travelling community who are decent, law abiding citizens trying to make their way in the world like everybody else. It may not be politically correct to say it but the harsh reality is that the vast majority of people are totally fed up and sick to the teeth of Travellers and their blackguarding. Sadly, that animosity will also affect those guilty of nothing other than the randomness of the society into which they were born. That shouldn’t matter a damn to anybody but, of course, it does.
Those involved in the feud in Waterford are bringing themselves and the entire Travelling community into disrepute even though it is very unfair to tarnish everybody because of the actions of a few. But, that’s the way things are. I lived in London for a while in the early 1970s. Though I wasn’t a terrorist, every time I opened my mouth in non-Irish circles I could plainly see the suspicion and resentment on the faces of my companions. Nobody actually came out and told me to clear off back where I came from but the hostility was palpable.
However, in my opinion, the greatest damage being done to the Travelling community at present is inflicted by the hoards of wealthy traders who criss-cross the country every summer causing consternation almost everywhere they go. The amount of bad feeling they leave in their wake (as well as the dirt and refuse) has been added to with each passing year and is now a mountain of smouldering disdain.
They were at it again the weekend before last, down the road in Courtown Harbour. On the Friday night a group of about 50 Travellers took over a pub owned by Councillor Jimmy Fleming. They smoked at will, refused to pay for their drinks and then started to help themselves from behind the bar. Frightened staff were ridiculed and intimidated while the bar manager was threatened with having his throat cut.
Gardai did the best they could in difficult circumstances but the Travellers ignored closing time and didn’t depart the pub until 2am leaving a terrified and traumatised staff in their wake. Needless to say, nobody has been prosecuted as a result. That is not a cut at the hard-pressed gardai but people from the settled community know that, if they tried on such behaviour, they would be up before the courts in a flash. And that also leads to resentment against the gardai.
Councillor Fleming has now pinned a notice to his front-door declaring that transient Travellers will not be served in future. “They can prosecute me if they like but I’m sick of it and I would prefer to close down rather than endure more of the same”, he said bitterly.
He is not the only one upset and afraid. The Chairman of Courtown Community Council, Declan Dunbar, said he intended to step down at the end of the season such was his feeling of helplessness. He described how about 30 vans parked on double yellow lines and on disabled spaces in the Seamount area where their occupants defecated on the public road and kicked up a general fuss until 4am on Sunday morning.
“We have been badly let down by the authorities. The town is in a shambles. We are bursting a gut but we are wasting our time because we are getting no cooperation from anybody”, he complained bitterly.
But, of course, there are still many prominent voices that claim the settled community is at fault and that society is merely reaping the problems it sowed because it didn’t treat the Travelling community properly in the first place.
Only last week, Dr. Bryan Fanning, a sociologist and academic who has expertise in the area of national integration and immigration and who is a senior lecturer in the School of Applied Science at UCD, claimed that, in the last four decades of the 20th.century, there was a climate of ongoing discrimination against Travellers. And referring specifically to county councillors in the County Clare area, he said their utterances at public meetings, which were usually reported verbatim in the local media, represented the visible part of a broader prejudice against Travellers in this country.
Immediately, a large number of local politicians rejected Dr. Fanning’s assertion with several describing his findings as ‘rubbish’. However, the fact of the matter is that Dr. Fanning is a distinguished and influential educator. From what I know of his allegations, I wouldn’t agree with him but those in positions of power will almost certainly take on board his findings over and above the complaints of the ordinary people in the street who are experiencing the problems at first hand.
I don’t wish to be disrespectful to Dr. Fanning but, if he lived next door to the houses in Kilcohan, Farran Park and Ballybeg that were firebombed and shot at, or if was in Councillor Fleming’s shoes in Courtown Harbour, he just might arrive at a different conclusion.
Earthquakes on the way?
This has been a dreadful, wet summer and the children are due back at school any day now without ever feeling the sun on their backs, in this country at any rate. Even ordinary suburban families have experienced difficulty cutting grass and maintaining their small gardens but spare a thought for the farmers who are getting it in the neck from all directions.
Like the rest of us, they too are depressed by the lack of sunshine but they also have to face the fact that part or all of their business is doomed this year. They have really been put to the wall as the rain continues to wash away their livelihoods. Cattle and tillage farmers have been badly hit and some are even facing bankruptcy because of flattened crops, worthless straw and washed away seeds. A fair proportion of dairy and dry-stock is already indoors and eating into winter silage.
Mind you, if you’ve got a black sense of humour, your spirits might be raised by the well known psychic, Moira Geoghegan from Bennettsbridge, who is predicting that Waterford and its South East neighbours, Kilkenny, Wexford and Clonmel, are due to be hit by earthquakes in the near future. Affectionately known to her fans as Mystic Moira, Ms. Geoghegan said residents of the South East could expect to experience what the people of the Far East had already suffered, including the odd tsunami. Damn, so much for an Indian Summer this September.
A gold medal for whiskey
Congratulations to County Carlow business couple, Bernard and Rosemary Walsh, who have strong family connections in Waterford. The Whiskey Olympics, also known as The World International Spirits Challenge, has just concluded in London after three hectic weeks and the Walsh’s company, The Hot Irishman, beat off competition from almost one-thousand different blends of spirits from across the world to take first prize with its premium whiskey, Irishman 70 Blend.
Bernard and Rosemary, who set up their company nine years ago producing instant Irish Coffee, revealed that their whiskey was 70 per cent malt, pot-stilled and blend matured in bourbon casks before being triple distilled. “Our drink is perfect for those who like their whiskey full of spice and pepper with a beautiful fruity finish”, said Bernard. He also pointed out that, 200 years ago, Ireland made 90 per cent of the world’s whiskey but now produced only 4 per cent of the total global product. Good luck to them and their products.