Truce urged in Portlaoise traveller dispute

FEARS are growing that a feud in the traveller community that has seen a drive by shooting and a fireboming in Portlaoise, may lead to a tragedy similar to what occurred in Tullamore last year.

FEARS are growing that a feud in the traveller community that has seen a drive by shooting and a fireboming in Portlaoise, may lead to a tragedy similar to what occurred in Tullamore last year.

But an experienced representative of travellers in Laois has called for an end to the violence by urging a family forced out of their home not to retaliate after their home was attacked twice in the space of a week.

Gardai have maintained an intense security presence around the Borris Road with armed checkpoints mounted. This week they detained a teenager in relation to the drive by attack at the house in Highfield Manor on New Year's Eve. The young man was arrested in Tallaght.

The family moved out of the house after the shotgun attack but on January 4 there was an arson attempt on the then empty house. It is understood that when a number of men showed up at the house armed with firebombs, they were confronted by relatives of the Portlaoise family and had to leave the estate. The events are understood to be part of a feud that has been going on since last year. The latest event has traumatised a family but some have also been injured in previous incidents.

Julie Nevin, coordinator of the Laois Traveller Action Network, was speaking in the wake of the incident at the home of the settled traveller family at Highfield Manor off the Borris Road.

"I feel terribly sorry for the family. They are a very nice family and they were so happy in their home," she said.

Ms Nevin said the incidents were not caused by a row among local travellers. She hoped that the arrest made by gardai may end the problems.

"I am fully against any sort of violence of any kind or retaliation. I think the best thing that people can do is to stay calm and leave the matter in the hands of the law," she said.

Last year a dispute in Tullamore led to the death of a young traveller man. Ms Nevin hoped that this would not happen in Portlaoise.

"If there is retaliation there one thing is going to lead to another. We don't want to see a repeat of what happened in Tullamore. There has been too much of that in the past. I have enough knowledge and experience from the past to know that is not the way forward," she said.

While there have been promises of a truce this week, it remains to be seen if Ms Nevin's pleas will be headed. Already, Gardai in Tullamore are understood to have detained a man in relation to a fire at a house in Galway city since New Year's Day. Tragedy was narrowly when a woman and child had to be rescued from a burning house in Ballybane.

All of the incidents are be lived to be linked to a feud which has been running for several months between two families who have relations from Dublin to Galway. It is understood that two men were injured last summer, one seriously, during the summer in an incident in Portlaoise.