Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Battle of Balbriggan

May 14th, 2009 · 7 Comments

irishtravellersDuring our time in Ireland, we never ceased to be mystified by the venom spewed toward Travellers, perhaps the Emerald Isle’s largest ethnic minority. For starters, we had a tough time differentiating Travellers from their countrymen, although our Irish comrades never seemed to fail at the task. Alas, many of those comrades were barkeeps, and they’d often get the vapors when a group of Travellers showed up for pints. The saga apparently continues, judging by what went down during a recent Irish bank holiday:

Up to 50 gardaí from Balbriggan, Swords, Donabate, Baldoyle and Lusk were called to deal with a pub brawl that escalated into a siege in the north Dublin town after a number of the pub’s customers, believed to be members of the local Travelling community, were refused service.

Over a dozen customers of John D’s took over the pub and threatened staff after being refused further service there. Staff and some customers ran out of the pub and the dozen barricaded themselves inside with chairs and tables. They smashed windows and broke up furniture.

When gardaí arrived before 7pm people in the pub threw bottles, a fire extinguisher and other missiles out on to the street at them. The Garda Public Order Unit had to be called in and part of the town was closed off to traffic until 9pm. Following an initial stand-off, gardaí rushed the premises and 13 people were arrested.

Some rather unsympathetic Irish media reaction here and here. The latter commentary frowns on the willingness of some Travellers to earn their keep as bare-knuckle boxers. (See also: Brad Pitt’s character in Snatch.)

Learn more about the Travellers and their history as reviled outsiders in this slideshow. And learn a bit of their unique language.

(Image via Irish Travellers, Tinkers No More)

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Gex

    Amazing to see people refuse to serve the Travellers and then get all offended and taken aback when the Travellers get upset by this treatment. This really speaks to the “First they came for the {blanks} and I did nothing…” saying. Some will always find an “other” to despise, and if there is no group that is significantly different, then minor differences will do.

  • Trey

    They had a series on FX about American Travellers. It was called The Riches, and it starred Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard.

  • dmsouthasia

    When I was a newspaperman I covered cases of American Travelers running awful scams on elderly homeowners in Queens. They really cleaned these people out, all of them in their 80s and 90s. If I recall, insurance scams were very big as well. Guys having sex with and then beating their wives or girlfriends, who would then claim they were raped to they could sue – hotels? amusement parks? I can’t remember who – for not providing a secure environment.

    Not to defame all tinkers and nomads. I’m partial to the footloose.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @dmsouthasia: I remember seeing a Dateline segment about that amusement-park scam. They ran it at Disney World a few times, and really knocked around the “victim” to make it appear realistic. Extremely not cool.

    @Gex: I’ll be posting plenty more about the Irish Travellers, so please keep an eye peeled. There’s a rich backstory here.

  • S

    I would have thought that balancing 2 cats on your head would be part of a pretty decent street performing act.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @S: Tough crowds on the Emerald Isle. Unless you can get three cats up there, don’t even bother passing the hat.

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