Rathkeale in Limerick has the highest Traveller population in the country. How well do the Traveller and settled communities get along?

Rathkeale in County Limerick has a long established history of Traveller culture and is a town which for generations, Travellers have regarded as their own.

Numerically the ratio of settled and Traveller communities in Rathekeale is almost equal at 55% to 45%. But even though the two distinct communities have lived side by side over time, neither tolerance nor acceptance comes easily.

Rathkeale Councillor John Griffin is chairman of the Riverside Training Centre. He raises concerns about the lifestyle clash between the two communities but sees it as a result of a lack of education and understanding. Encouragingly, among the younger population of Rathkeale the distinction is less apparent,

I find no difference; we're all just friends and everything.

Limerick resident Senator Mary Kelly believes Rathkeale is unique in Ireland because so much of the town’s population is made up of the Travelling community. The Fairhill area of Rathkeale is a Traveller enclave. She says this area is mayhem at Christmas when an influx of Travellers return home from abroad and,

Generally disrupt the normal way of life.

David Sheridan does not like outside Travellers coming into Rathkeale. He believes it is these outsiders that tar the reputation of Travellers permanently residing in the town.

While some Travellers in Fairhill live an affluent lifestyle, some like Eileen O’Brien live in a residential park.

Were hoping that we’ll get houses built in the near future.

Vice-chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Séan Hennessy says the Rathkeale townspeople want to live in harmony but have an expectation of a certain level of law and order where,

I can continue my lifestyle and these people can continue their lifestyle and we work together.

The large Traveller population in Rathkeale has sometimes seen the town stigmatised nationally. Councillor John Griffin does not believe labelling Rathkeale is justified. He feels the state has much to learn from how the settled and Traveller communities of Rathekeale live side by in a peaceful way.

I think Rathkeale doesn’t get credit for that and it’s a label that it doesn’t deserve.

A 'Nationwide’ report broadcast on 10 November 1995. The reporter is Cathy Halloran.