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The Town the Travellers Took Over

Mon Jul 1, 9-10pm, C5

There’s no mitigation when it comes to this C5 documentary – Travellers HAVE taken over Rathkeale in County Limerick. The job of reporter and presenter Paul Connolly seems to be to somehow flesh this fact out into an hour of riveting investigation. He doesn’t entirely succeed.

Among soundbites from Rathkeale residents of an ‘unofficial apartheid’ and a ‘cross-cultural tug-of-war’, Travellers are immediately posited as being the enemy. Whereas programmes like ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ at least gave viewers an insight into Traveller life, here, they’re assumed to be a menace from the very start. Connolly tries and fails to talk to members of Rathkeale’s insular Traveller community: one of many failures he’s happy to share with us. There’s a surreal encounter with supposed Rathkeale conmen in France which sees Connolly putting on a (terrible) fake French accent.

Such is the lack of substance, his internal dialogue (‘will my cover get blown?’) becomes a substitute for actual facts, while most of his sources are silhouetted and given vague titles such as ‘Traveller insider’. Would ‘Panorama’ or ‘Dispatches’ have given this valuable airtime? This is a programme about criminals. Titling it as a programme about Travellers is disingenuous at best and deliberately provocative at worst.