Farmer in County Mayo Receives Reduced Sentence of Manslaughter after Killing Traveller
3 April 2006
According to a 26 November 2005 article by London-based newspaper The Guardian, in a court decision of the same month, Mr. Pádraig Nally, a farmer from County Mayo who killed a Traveller whom he believed was breaking in to his farmhouse, was cleared of murder and convicted of manslaughter for which he was sentenced to six years imprisonment. In October 2004, Mr. Nally reportedly caught John Ward trespassing on his farm and shot him in the hip and the hand, repeatedly beat him with a piece of wood, and then shot him dead at close range.
The judge ruling on the case commented that it was the "most socially divisive case" he has tried in his history as a judge. Some believe that Mr. Nally was sentenced too harshly by the court, arguing that Travellers must be made responsible for their involvement in crime. A rally was even organised in support of Mr. Nally, but was postponed due to accusations that it was racist against Travellers, an allegation its organisers denied. Mr. Ian O'Donnell, of the Institute of Criminology at University College Dublin, countering arguments by Nally supporters, noted that the idea that Travellers are disproportionately involved in rural crime is unsubstantiated and attempts to imply the contrary amount to 'scapegoating'. Such scapegoating has the effect of further marginalization. Many Travellers report living in constant fear, a fear that is not unfounded as demonstrated by the death of a 26-year old Traveller who was chased into an ally, beaten and stabbed to death with a pool cue.
Approximately 30,000 Travellers live in Ireland, which amounts to less than 1% of the population. While Irish Travellers are recognized as a minority in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, they have not been afforded the same recognition in the Republic of Ireland. Mr. Martin Collins, assistant director of the Travellers group Pavee Point, argues that this lack of recognition prevents the hatred Travellers face on a daily basis being properly addressed as racism. Mr. Collins sees the Nally case as an example of the "blatant and institutionalised racism" that exists against Travellers in the Republic. None of the jury members were Travellers. Commenting on the case, Collins said: "I am the first to admit that John Ward had no right to be where he was, but this was cold-blooded murder and now the farmer is being glorified and portrayed as a national hero. This is akin to what once happened in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi." The ERRC is currently involved in a joint project with the Irish Traveller Movement and the Italian Helsinki Committee, supported by the European Commission, aiming among other things to challenge discrimination against Travelers in Ireland.