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Grave danger Tuam feud that resulted in bloody graveyard brawl dates back 25 years

Feuding between the clans goes back to the mid-1990s when someone was accused of showing disrespect to the other family by standing on a grave during a funeral in the same graveyard.

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Paramedics at scene in Tuam

Paramedics at scene in Tuam

Paramedics at scene in Tuam

DECADES of simmering tension exploded in violence this week at an horrific graveyard brawl in Tuam that left seven people in hospital.

The roots of the bitter feud go back to 1996 when another huge melee broke out in the same graveyard, according to Sunday World sources.

“One crowd who were very young at the time let the resentment grow. They were outnumbered back then but now they feel there are strong enough. They never let go the bitterness,” said one source.

An attempt to settle tensions last July backfired when two bare-knuckle fighters from the rival clans fought each other for a €60,000 prize in a bout that descended into chaos.

Tom ‘Smurf’ McDonagh and Dinny’s Anthony Ward had been sending taunting messages to each other via social media since April, ahead of the fight being organised.

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But any chance of the pair shaking hands came to end when the fair-play men stopped the fight after Ward appeared to head-butt his opponent for the third time.

Feuding between the clans goes back to the mid-1990s when someone was accused of showing disrespect to the other family by standing on a grave during a funeral in the same graveyard.

A violent melee broke out with fights and attacks continuing for days afterwards with houses and property attacked, forcing some families to move out.

Dozens of people were later charged in connection with the fighting, in what was one the longest and most complex trials held at District Court level.

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One of the injured

One of the injured

One of the injured

By the middle of 1998 peace was declared when what was to become known as the Good Wednesday Agreement was hammered out with the help of local senior gardaí.

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This week’s row however, showed that a new generation don’t feel bound by the terms of the deal as the violence threatens again to spiral out of control.

After the violence on Wednesday one of the casualties was taken by helicopter to hospital for treatment.

One juvenile was arrested at the scene where gardaí are seen on video clips of the incident trying to clear the graveyard and keep the rival factions separate.

Approximately 30 gardaí responded to the disturbance, including gardaí from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit.

Five men and two women were taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries, some with what appeared to be knife wounds.

The family of those whose funeral took place when the violence broke out this week have nothing to do with the feud.

Despite talk of a new peace deal being brokered between the rival clans later this week, a video was posted online in a deliberate show of strength the day after the chaotic scenes.

Dozens of men are seen walking from Gilmartin Road into St Enda’s Avenue in Tuam and into an adjacent field.

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Dozens of men gathered in Tuam

Dozens of men gathered in Tuam

Dozens of men gathered in Tuam

Flanked by the crowd of men a man then explains: “This is a message going back to the Smurfs.”

“You came to the graveyard yesterday black guarding, we were at that graveyard to show respect. Ye came with weapons and stuff for to fight.

“Boys, our fair fights are over and done with, there’s no fair fights. This is how it’s going, when we meet, it’s all dirt from here on out. That’s how it’s going to be. You went down there yesterday and attacked a 72-year-old woman as well inside of that f***ing graveyard. You should be ashamed of yourselves boys.

“We have all the Galway Wards, the Mountbellew Wards and the Tuam Wards. We’re all sticking together. When we meet we’ll sort it out.”

But the threatening video was dismissed in a follow up message from a member of the Smurf McDonagh clan who mocked them as ‘running away.’

“You never wanted to go the whole hog with us you f***ing cowards. You make a video at your back door, you’re afraid to come out in the open. You’re talking about fair fights is over with, you were never going to fight fair, because, I’ll tell you why, you were never able for us.”

Fr Ray Flaherty, the parish priest of Headford, Co Galway, told the Irish Independent the experience has left him “very shaken.”

“It was very shocking...To witness the sheer violence of it, I was very shaken by the whole thing,” he said.

“I’d hope the leaders within the Travelling community could sit down and talk things over."

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