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The facts of the case:

Nally headlineIn October 2004, John Ward - a 42-year-old father of 11, a small-time criminal, and a Traveller - was beaten 20 times and shot twice resulting in his death.
Padraig Nally, a 61-year-old farmer from Mayo, was tried for his murder and found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
On 11th November 2005, he was sentenced to six years in prison, then he was freed in October 2006 after he was acquitted of the manslaughter.*
The case - Nally admitted to killing John Ward - divided the country and many racist jibes were aimed at the family of the victim, while the media heaped insult on top of the man's death by (in many cases) excusing the killer's behaviour. Padraig Nally testified that he lived in fear of the victim and attacked John Ward while
he trespassed on the farmer's property.
Ann Costello, a community worker with the Galway Traveller Movement, was interviewed by the Sunday Business Post after Nally's second acquittal. She said,
''Travellers are very concerned about this verdict and feel powerless. Political leadership has been absent on this issue, and it is time Travellers got reassurance
- at senior government level - that they will be afforded the same protection as every other citizen.

* (Padraig Nally was freed in 2006 after the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that Mr Justice Paul Carney, the high court judge in the original trial, erred in law by failing to allow
the jury the opportunity to return a verdict of not guilty).

- Spring '06, Issue 17

 

No immunity for CDPs

Concerning the often biaised media coverage of the killing and subsequent trial, Terry Battles, information officer with Pavee Point remarked: "CDPs are not immune to negative (media) influences and on-going work is required to ensure a Traveller perspective is articulated and understood both within and outside the CDP programme."

- Spring '06, Issue 17

 

NCCRI's media review

A Media Review of the Padraig Nally case was also produced by Fiona McGaughey, who is a Policy Officer with the National Consultative Committee on Racism in Ireland (NCCRI). The full-length version of her article appeared in the NCCRI's December 2005 issue of Spectrum magazine and is available online at: www.nccri.ie

- Spring '06, Issue 17

 

Media comment on the initial trial conviction for manslaughter:

"Justice RIP - Outrage as terrified farmer gets 6yrs for killing Traveller burglar." - the front page of the Daily Mirror after the six-year sentence was first handed down.

"A massive 83% of those who responded believed that Mayo farmer Padraig Nally should not have been jailed for killing Traveller John 'Frog' Ward." - according to an Irish Examiner poll

"The Nally case has turned an issue on its head - the farmer who is still alive rather than the Traveller who is dead is regarded as the victim". - Liam Collins, The Sunday Independent

 

Nally-case: racist fallout remains a concern

Pavee Point remains "concerned at the issues arising in the fallout from the Padraig Nally case and their adverse effect on Travellers in Irish society." "There is no getting away from the fact that the case has contributed in a significant way to the continued demonisation of Travellers in Ireland in general and in rural Ireland in particular."

Referring to the racist discourse whereby politicians "equated Travellers with crime", Pavee Point said this (combined with other anti-Traveller reaction to the deadly attack and subsequent trial) "exposed and exacerbated the fault-line that exists in relations between the Traveller and settled communities."

Martin Collins, assistant director of Pavee Point, said: "Traveller organisations acknowledge and have consistently challenged anti-social and criminal behaviour by Travellers and will continue to do so."

Pavee Point, a Specialist Support Agency to the Community Development Programme, drew up a position paper on the matter and identified the following as issues:

  1. Law lecturer, Conor Hanly of NUI Galway, said the accused was fortunate to avoid a murder sentence.
  2. Unanswered questions about the court proceedings Pavee found there were a number of worrying aspects in terms of the court proceedings. For example, why was the case the first trial of its kind to be held in Mayo in a hundred years, particularly when there was strong local support for Padraig Nally?
  3. The disturbing initial response to Padraig Nally's conviction
    The response to the conviction for manslaughter from Padraig Nally's supporters, some sections of the media and from some politicians was disturbing. It is notable to recall that, at the time of the court verdict, in November, a call was made for a public anti-Traveller rally.
    "It is to the credit of the GAA and the Irish Farmers Association that they did not provide official support for the proposed rally," remarked Pavee. The rally was eventually called off.
    The agency criticised politicians, in particular, Senator Jim Higgins of Fine Gael who made what it describes as "inflammatory statements about Travellers and their responsibility for rural crime." It said the lack of overall political leadership in challenging the anti-Traveller discourse is both worrying and disappointing.
    Pavee abhorred the work of one paper in particular, the Daily Mirror, saying it had a long track record of printing stories that label minority ethnic groups as criminals. Other newspapers provided a balanced picture of the case, including said a surprised Pavee Point, the Sunday Independent.
  4. The demonisation of Travellers
    The scapegoating of Travellers for all rural crime will no doubt remain in the minds of many as a consequence of this case. Other cases where Travellers come before the law will likely be seized upon as further proof of this hypothesis.
    Yet, as Criminologist Dr. Paul O'Mahony has pointed out, the statistics show that there has been no massive increase in crime in the Irish Republic in the last twenty years. Experience from Ireland and elsewhere shows that the incessant labelling and demonisation of a vulnerable minority contributes to the conditions where attacks and discrimination of that community becomes more accepted and more possible.
In conclusion, Pavee Point highlighted the need to build greater relations between the Traveller and settled communities and said it is "interested in creating a just society for all citizens of Ireland but we cannot do this alone." This article is condensed - for the full length position paper, contact Pavee Point directly.

- Spring '06, Issue 17

 

Collins criticises 'cheap' talk

Fine Gael reaction to the Ward manslaughter/Nally conviction was "short-sighted, cheap and dangerous", according to Martin Collins, Pavee Point's assistant director. Collins claimed some Fine Gael politicians were guilty of incitement to hatred, but refused to name names. He said the Incitement to Hatred Act needed to be reviewed also. It is judged weak and convictions under it are rare.

Mr. Collins said the political and media hype around the Ward manslaughter/Nally conviction have "set us back five years" when it comes to developing relations between Traveller and settled communities.

As part of its work, Pavee Point is a Specialist Support Agency to projects funded by the Community Development Programme.

A Fine Gael spokesperson responded to the criticisms, saying: "Fine Gael is not anti-Traveller. When we were in government we brought in equal status legislation."
- Winter '05, Issue 16