Church criticised for ‘too many Traveller weddings’ in County Limerick

by Alan Jacques

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big fat gypsy wedding 4_A2THE Catholic Church has been criticised for “over accommodating” the Traveller community in Rathkeale with “lavish and expensive” weddings at Christmastime.

Speaking at this month’s Adare-Rathkeale district meeting, Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary said that between 20 and 25 Traveller weddings had taken place in the West Limerick town during the festive season last year.

He hit out at the Catholic Church for allowing so many big weddings to take place over such a short period of time, bringing an influx of an extra 3,000 people into the town during Christmas.

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“Multiples of thousands are spent on these big, lavish weddings with horse drawn carriages. Yet the same people claim they have no income and there is absolutely no scrutiny or investigation of this — they just cast a blind eye,” Cllr Keary claimed.

Sinn Fein councillor Ciara McMahon agreed that more needed to be done in Rathkeale. She said the lavish weddings, as seen on Channel 4 documentary series ‘Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, had become a “spectator sport” in the town.

“I know people who travel from different parts of the county to come and see the big cars and the big spectacle in Rathkeale when the weddings are on,” she added.

Cllr Keary claimed “the will is not there” to tackle the problem and he also criticised Limerick City and County Council for not enforcing its bye-laws. He said that 338 caravans were illegally parked in 69 locations around Rathkeale on December 31 last.

An array of Mercedes, Range Rovers, BMWs and a variety of SUVs were also parked around the towns at weddings last month.

Garda Superintendent Tom O’Connor told council members that 30 vehicles, under the control of young drivers, were confiscated during the Christmas period in Rathkeale. There were also 28 arrests for public order offences.

He said the Garda area plan implemented over the festive season was a success, despite a Garda being knocked down in one incident. He also suggested that CCTV cameras would act as a deterrent in the town in the future.

Cllr Keary insisted that cars seized by Gardaí should be crushed.

“The reality is that these blackguards are an accident waiting to happen. There will be fatalities. They are driving up and down the road at 180 miles an hour.”

Fianna Fail councillor Kevin Sheahan said the situation could only be rectified with new legislation and cooperation of other agencies. He called on the council to write to the Minister of Justice to express their views.