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Ballinrobe Confirmation Mass brawl pre-planned

Ballinrobe Confirmation chaos pre-planned

Travellers brought camcorders to film violent scenes

Video Evidence
Edwin McGreal


So pre-planned was last week’s riot at a Confirmation service in Ballinrobe, that both sides in the Traveller feud filmed the events with camcorders.
The brawl, involving as many as 30 people, erupted towards the end of a packed Confirmation service for 97 local children at St Mary’s Church in Ballinrobe. Slash hooks and hurls were among the weapons produced in the brawl.
The Mayo News has seen footage of the frightening scenes. Taken by a bystander, it shows two individuals recording the mayhem, one located in the driveway of the church and the other in the doorway.
The video footage also shows one man produce a large slash hook and hold it in the air in a threatening manner outside the door of the church before putting it away again. A man beside him has a hurl out and is holding it firmly in the air, as if to indicate he is about to use it. Both of these men are facing towards the doorway to the inner porch, trying to push towards a group gathered in the doorway and the porch, inside the church.
The footage doesn’t show what is happening inside the crowded doorway, but a number of eyewitness reports of what happened have been gathered by The Mayo News.
While some early eyewitness accounts reported that a man was chased out of the church by men wielding slash-hooks, it is now believed that one man ran from a seat in the church into the porch area to get involved in the row.
A number of churchgoers standing in the porch area were forced to flee into the main body of the church to avoid the fight. One eyewitness recalls an elderly man being pushed in to the church by the force of the brawl, while another saw a woman holding a baby rushing inside to get away.
In the film footage, the group, including the man carrying the slash hook and the man carrying the hurl, try to get at the group in the doorway on a number of occasions. However, because the area at the doorway was too crowded with various individuals involved in the fight, the men carrying the slash hook and hurl put their weapons away, under their jackets.
Inside, a number of witnesses saw a table in the porch being broken over one of the men involved in the brawl, and legs of the table subsequently being used as weapons. One man who was sitting at the rear of the church observed a boy ‘no older than 12’ bringing a chair over to the brawl to be broken up to be used as a weapon.
“Everyone knew something was going to happen, this was brewing from before the Mass even began. It was just a matter of time before it kicked off,” said that eyewitness, who does not want to be named.
“This young lad who brought the chair over, he had been relaying messages to a man sitting at the Mass for most of the service. He went and whispered something to him at around 1.30pm and the man jumped over the pew he was sitting in and raced over to the porch area … it all kicked off then,” he said.
When the violence errupted, Archbishop Michael Neary, who was chief celebrant at the Confirmation Mass, asked people to remain seated and to stay calm. He continued with the ceremony and brought the service to a conclusion. The 600-plus congregation did not leave the church for over ten minutes after the Mass had finished, waiting until the Gardaí had brought the situation under control.
The 97 children confirmed were mostly from the four local national schools – Cregduff NS, Cloonliffen NS, Roxboro NS and St Joseph’s NS, Ballinrobe. A small number were from the local secondary school, Ballinrobe Community School.
One man was arrested at the scene. Four more men were later arrested after an early-morning raid at Bog Road, Ballinrobe, on Friday. The four were brought to court in Galway that afternoon and charged with public order offences, as well as one offence under the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act. They were remanded in custody in Castlerea Prison to appear in court again this Friday.

Read more
Ballinrobe community reacts to Confirmation fight

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