Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Police foil organised bare-knuckle fight

3,000 people including many from Ulster arrived for Travellers scrap

Extra gardai were deployed to Westmeath town yesterday to prevent a bare-knuckle fight organised by Travellers.

Up to 3,000 people were due to arrive in Athlone to watch the fisticuffs. Gardai set up checkpoints and searched cars travelling to the area for weapons.

It is understood the fist fight was organised by Travellers involved in criminal gangs in Dublin and Limerick. It is also believed a number of people travelled from England to attend the event.

A spokesperson for the gardai said no arrests were made yesterday.

"The crowd was dispersed and the big spectator event did not go ahead," he added.

Mayor of Athlone Egbert Moran said gardai had the situation in hand from 10.30am yesterday when they moved in on Blackberry Lane.

"The guards were in charge of the situation. A lot of people were congregating but there was no incident. Whether the fight took place somewhere else, we just don't know."

Mr Moran said there were a lot of Northern or English registered cars in the area yesterday.

"There was a huge amount of people over from England but everything went off smoothly. They were moved on," he added.

A number of pubs in Athlone closed their doors early on Saturday night.

"It's very worrying to have a big group of people coming into the town like that. The publicans will be worried as well if people are hanging around," said local councillor Austin Berry.

Mr Berry said there was a strong garda presence in Athlone checking cars coming and going from the midlands town. "They're looking for all sorts of weapons. They seemed to be on top of it and had extra resources," he added.

Martin Collins, spokesperson for the Travellers representative group, Pavee Point, said: "If there was some sort of a bare-knuckle fight organised, it's absolutely futile and counter productive. It only serves to reinforce stereotypes and is unacceptable, uncivilised and barbaric."

Mr Collins said the 'King of the Tinkers' title was an "urban myth".

"There is no such thing. It's been perpetuated by the tabloid media, it's ridiculous and outlandish," he added.

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