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Horror at the horse fair

THIS was the terror on the streets of central Dublin at 11.30am on a Sunday morning.

Terrified children and tourists – encouraged to visit the Smithfield area by Failte Ireland – flee for their lives as shots ring out and feuding Travellers turn on each other.

Gangs of hooded and masked thugs armed with guns and slash hooks attacked fellow fair-goers in the centre of the city.

A Smithfield hotel manager described the scene as a warzone as innocent people ran from the gunfire.

Gemma Jordan, who runs the Maldron Hotel, described how she personally pulled one toddler to safety during the terrifying melee.She described a stampedes of travellers and horses forcing shocked guests to flee for their lives.

“People who book in here expect to come to a city where they can walk around and enjoy themselves, not have Beirut with horses on their doorstep,” Ms Jordan told the Herald.

The violence was started due to a feud between a number of traveller families from Traveller, Offaly and Galway.

Two travellers were blasted in the leg with a make-shift shotgun and a third was sliced with a slash-hook during the Smithfield horse fair. The violence broke out when warring travellers attacked each other with sticks, tyre irons, slash hooks and other blunt weapons.

Gunshots

A man’s arm was almost sliced off with a slash hook and then a number of gunshots were heard in the packed square in Smithfield, sparking chaos.

Two traveller men, from the same co Offaly family, were shot in the hip and leg and were rushed to the Mater hospital for treatment at around 11.30am yesterday morning.

The third man who was slashed in the arm underwent surgery last night to close the wound. All three men are so far refusing to cooperate with the garda investigation into the violence which is continuing this morning.

A man in his 40s, believed to be from the north inner city was arrested by gardai following the violence at Bridgefoot Street shortly before 9pm last night.

He was being held last night at the Bridewell garda station under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act. He can be detained without charge for up to three days.

The traveller feud which sparked yesterday's violence stems from a row in Laois 18 months ago.

One side of the feud is understood to have moved from Portlaoise to Offaly, while the other has roots in Longford, Galway and Limerick and is linked to a gang of Tallaght travellers.

“This is not the first violent altercation between these two gangs,” a source told the Herald.

“There have been a number of beatings, stabbings and shootings in this feud already and it has not finished yet.”

The feud is understood to be linked to a shooting at a house in co Laois in January 2010.

When a gang returned to firebomb the house they were confronted by relatives of the Laois family and ran from the estate.

Escape

A woman and a child were lucky to escape after they were rescued from their burning home following an arson attack in Galway, also in January 2010. The feud was started in the summer of 2009 during an incident in Laois in which two men were injured, one seriously.

The traveller row which has been running for the last 18 months got out of control when a man was wounded in the arm with a slash hook and blood began spouting from his arm.

The injured man was bleeding profusely as he ran through the crowd towards King Street, where gardai came to his assistance. Seconds later, a loud bang, followed by gunshots, rang out in the square narrowly missing some bystanders.

The shootings sparked a stampede among bystanders fleeing from the bullets.

Eye-witnesses watched on in horror as young children were knocked to the ground as people desperately ran for safety.

Gardai discovered a homemade shotgun believed to have been used in the shootings.

The device, which comprised two cylinders bound together, was initially thought to be two pipe bombs when it was discovered in a bag.

Army ordnance officers made the device safe and it was later handed back to gardai for a technical examination. Gardai later found a handgun abandoned in the Oliver Bond flats complex in the south inner city.