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Irish Travellers

Irish Traveller girls coming in to shoplift

Heaton's (department store,) Kilkenny Ireland, Summer of 2002 —

M_ was in the shop today, with D_, and also a three-year-old girl I'd never seen.

M_ and D_ are Irish Travellers. Irish Travellers are an ancient nomadic ethnic group who comprise about a half-percent of the population of the island.

M_ and her friends are, in the words of one Irish person "the worst of them." Most Irish would agree, but most Irish don't seem to think too highly of Travellers in general — nor do they pain themselves trying to hide it.

M_, a small woman in her mid-20's, comes into the shop to steal things. She is usually with some younger girls. Sometimes they will separate, and make it difficult for security to watch them. Sometimes they will "stage" things for easy shoplifting later. Shoes are popular — runners [or "trainers"] especially — and apparently the girls are able to get money for stolen goods from amongst extended-family connections.

Usually, I think, it is the younger girls who carry the goods out the door. Young girls, after all, are difficult to prosecute.

In this case, it was a young one alright. There was M_, then D_, who was about fifteen, and behind them the little three-year-old, with a pair of shoes in her hand. A co-worker confronted them (that's really the job of security, not staff.) They argued with her. I came over. We just smiled at each other — they know I'm not going to get heavy — and then the manager Trevor came over and told them to get out. D_ swatted the shoes from the little girl's hands, and they left.

They'll be back. They'll be all over town, too, and all over neighboring towns, too, most likely.