Having been horrified by my own reaction to the behaviour of Traveller families living on estates here in Mayo and elsewhere, I am wondering now why they behave as they do when they know it is going to cause hatred and disgust among their neighbouors. On my very small estate we have 3 houses rented out to "infamous" traveller families. Today, at 4pm until 6pm, this small estate was encircled by dozens of gardai cars, vans, motorbikes and Gardai actually using their feet. I have no idea what was going on, only that some of the men from these families were removed by the Gardai.
I have noticed that a lot of these families look very similar to each other and that led me to think if there was "interbreeding" ongoing in their community, and if marriages were arranged. I was chatting to one girl, I find it hard to call her a woman as she is only 17, and she has a one year old girl and a 6 week old baby boy. I had to bite my tongue as I was about to ask her if she was insane, having babies so quickly when she was only a child herself.
So did these families take to the roads during the famine years or was it before that? Were there always Travellers moving around the country, and were they "gypsies" and are there any Irish gypsies, or were they always displaced persons?
Do they have a special culture, different from those around them and if so what is the difference? When did their reputation as thieves and violent people become part of their expected behaviour? To contradict this reputation they appear to be extremely religious and superstitious and yet I know that in Knock on special occasions they have caused havoc amongst fellow pilgrims and the local people.
Basically, what I am asking is why are they so hated and feared by settled people? Has this always been the case? When did these people arrive on the scene and are they native Irish who were displaced by the English or did they come initially from abroad? Do they have a relationship with Romas, Gypsies in other countries?