Tensions high | 

Rathkeale priest pleads with feuding factions to refrain from violence as Christmas approaches

Armed gardaí are patrolling the town to try to keep a lid on tensions which boiled over last Monday

David RaleighIndependent.ie

The parish priest of Rathkeale has appealed to groups involved in a violent feud in the town to step back and refrain from further violence, ahead of the Christmas period.

Fr Robert Coffey called for peace talks as the town swelled with an influx of family members visiting from the UK.

Armed gardaí are patrolling the town to try to keep a lid on tensions which boiled over last Monday.

Several cars were destroyed and machetes allegedly produced amid violent ramming incidents in the town.

Last month gardaí seized weapons at a property in the town, and a mobile home was damaged when men wearing balaclavas attacked it with machetes and slash hooks.

One faction is also being monitored on suspicion of attempting to extort property and land from residents of the town.

Last October, a garda was injured in a ramming incident, and gardaí were investigating reports of shots being fired at a car in the town.

“As a Christian community, we are praying that peace will be restored in our community, and that the people involved will sit down and settle their differences,” said Fr Coffey.

Appealing for calm, he said: “I would ask them to do this especially at this time of Christmas.”

Fr Coffey said that people were hesitant to speak publicly about the fresh wave of violence but that they simply wanted it to end for the sake of everyone in the community.

“People are keeping their counsel to themselves, it’s a delicate situation, and if you say something it could be misunderstood," he said.

“I’ve heard no real comments about it at all, because it’s very delicate, I’ve heard no one saying anything substantial, just that everyone hopes [those involved] will sit down and settle their differences, that’s all - it’s a very sensitive thing.”

Following Monday’s violence, the new justice minister, Simon Harris, visited the town and said what had occurred was “completely unacceptable”.

Mr Harris said any additional resources required by gardaí in Rathkeale “would be forthcoming” to tackle feuding factions.

He pledged that those involved in such violence would be pursued by the State.

“No part of this country is beyond the reach of the law,” he said.

Meanwhile, a mobile health clinic, a service provided annually by HSE Mid West Community Healthcare, to meet the town’s population surge over Christmas, will be available again from December 22-31, closing on Christmas Day.

Anyone attending the clinic with Covid-19 symptoms will be asked to perform an antigen test before entering the clinic and they are obliged to bring a medical card, EHIC card or NHS card with them.

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