Belfast Telegraph

Travellers start brawling next to play park in Tyrone

Images from footage of the incident in Coalisland on Sunday show police breaking up the among two Travellers
Images from footage of the incident in Coalisland on Sunday show police breaking up the among two Travellers
Images from footage of the incident in Coalisland on Sunday show police breaking up the among two Travellers

By Annamay McNally

These are the shocking images showing a bare-knuckle brawl between members of the Travelling community next to a children's play area in Co Tyrone.

Video footage of the incident, which lasts for almost 30 minutes before a large number of police officers arrive and disperse the crowd, has emerged on social media.

In it blood can be seen on one individual's clothing and face, and a crowd of around 20 to 30 onlookers can be seen nearby.

It is understood the two men involved in the brawl are brothers-in-law and, while one member of the crowd can be heard urging them to bring the matter to an end, others are heard shouting: "Let them fight on."

The incident occurred in the car park of the Washingbay Community Centre in Coalisland on Sunday afternoon.

Police said no reports of assault were made.

However, the incident has been strongly condemned by politicians in the area, who were alerted to the brawl by members of the public.

Local Sinn Fein councillor Joe O'Neill also accused those involved in organising the fight of "blocking the path into the park and leaving families trapped in".

Mr O'Neill said: "I think it was shocking to see this behaviour and fighting at the Washingbay Park, where young children were playing and others (were) using the new walkway there. Those involved showed no thoughts to anyone who use the facilities, and even blocking the path into the park and leaving families trapped in with nowhere to go.

"For young children to witness the fighting is totally unacceptable, as is the fact that this was allowed to happen.

"I want to completely condemn the actions of the Travelling community that was involved in this and appeal for them to stop this ever happening in a public place again."

SDLP councillor Malachy Quinn received a phone call about the fight and made his way to the scene.

"Myself and my father got a phone call to say what was happening and we drove down there," he explained.

"There were a lot of cars there and a lot of families from the local area (in the park). Children were in the area at the time and there are a lot of very angry people who are not happy at what has happened.

"This is not the first time an incident like this has happened at the Washingbay, as something similar took place at least once before.

"It is extremely disappointing to see this, especially since the Washingbay recently had its community walkway done up, which is being very well used by people of all ages."

The PSNI said: "Police received a report of a large crowd gathering to watch an arranged fight at a sports ground in Washingbay at around 4.20pm on Sunday.

"Officers attended and spoke to a number of individuals and dispersed the crowd. There were no complaints or reports of assault. Enquiries into the matter are ongoing."

Last month the Washingbay Walkway project was officially opened to the public.

It was developed through funding from Sport NI (£111,000), the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (£102,807), and Mid Ulster District Council (£25,000).

The launch of the 1km circular trail was hosted by the two local community partner organisations which spearheaded the project, Muintir na Mointeach and Derrylaughan Kevin Barry's GAC.

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