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News Summaries from ICSA Periodicals

Nomadic Group A Closed Society
The Irish Travelers, an association of families stemming from 19th century Irish immigrants, gained national attention recently when a mother in the group was caught on video beating her tiny daughter in a van in a department store parking lot in Mishawaka, Indiana. [csr 1.3 2002]

According to a “Dateline NBC” feature on the semi-nomadic clan, the Travelers frequently defraud the homeowners for whom they provide their services. Toogood, who has had IDs from several states at once, was at the time of her arrest wanted on charges of shoplifting in collusion with another Traveler. She told “Dateline” that her problems stem from prejudice against her lifestyle. “You know if you’re an Irish Traveler, you need not apply because you’re not welcome in communities.” [csr 1.3 2002]

“Dateline” found nine civil or criminal complaints and two convictions for theft against Toogood’s husband, Johnny. “Dateline” highlighted an episode in which Toogood and his “team” took nearly $7,000 from an elderly woman for repairs. (He pleaded guilty, paid the money back, and never went to jail.) Madelyn Toogood says that some Travelers deserve their bad reputation and some don’t. Her husband’s grandfather killed another Traveler; a brother-in-law was convicted of swindling more than $100,000; and another fled an assault charge. [csr 1.3 2002]

The Irish Travelers are apparently based in several closed trailer park communities around the country. One, Murphy Village, SC, according to a 1994 “Dateline” report, was like another world: palatial homes, with mobile homes in the back, and hardly anyone around. There were few house numbers, many cars with no license plates, and religious shrines in virtually every yard. Most residents, moreover, seemed to have similar names: there were 24 Tommy Carrolls, 15 Pat Rileys, and 36 John Sherlocks.[csr 1.3 2002]

Assisted by members of the Murphy Village Irish Travelers, “Dateline” reported that most Travelers children drop out of school after the sixth or eighth grade, and that teenagers are not allowed to date. Rather, pre-teens are taught to dance voluptuously and touch themselves suggestively, and to dress in designer gowns for walks down runways — as if at a beauty pageant — that often lead to negotiations for marriage in return for money.[csr 1.3 2002]

Patsy Hart, who has left the Travelers, told how her husband was 17 when he married his first wife, who was 11. When Hart’s son was born, she was offered from $125,000 to $250,000 by several women who wanted him to become engaged to their daughters. Madelyne Toogood says that in her section of the Travelers, women marry for love, not money, and men don’t marry children. Her daughter is now in the custody of her Grandmother, also an Irish Traveler.[csr 1.3 2002]

Police agree with the Travelers to whom “Dateline” spoke that not all Irish Travelers are criminals, and no one has suggested that childabuse is prevalent among them. (Dateline NBC, Internet, 10/11/02)[csr 1.3 2002]

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