Representatives of the Roma community speak out at a demonstration against racism on Oct 29 following angry mobs attack on families.YouTube

You don’t need to produce a body count to become a ‘lynch mob.’ All you need is to direct sinister threats or acts of violence against the minority - and it’s always a minority - that you’re targeting.

The point is to create fear. The fear you create is the message you are sending.

In the old days lynch mobs were arranged by angry people going from house to house until their numbers swelled. But these days you can just target the people you’re after on Facebook. Call it anti-social media.

First you have to reach a  consensus about who the target is. That’s the easy part. Then you have to show up unannounced at their doorstep, a big braying mob, with no leader and no discernible message other than - boo.

Reforming Ireland’s criminal justice system is difficult. Getting the ear of an Irish government minister is difficult too. Lighting a flaming torch or smashing a window, well that’s easy. It may even feel like progress. It is not progress however, it’s an admission of your utter failure.

I don’t know what the day to day crime is like on Manor Street of Waterford City, but I do know that angry mobs taking the law into their own hands and descending in large numbers to drive people out of their own homes is a very, very bad idea.

Breaking the law to uphold it isn’t just idiotic, it’s criminal. The mob did not descend on the local police station to air their grievances, they did not descend on the local ministers home, they did not stage a sit in at the County Council.

What they did instead was act as jury and judge and pronounce sentence without an appeal. To support this action they made unproven claims on Facebook that the Roma people in the town were involved in every kind of criminal activity.

It’s still a fact however that the majority of crime committed in Ireland is committed by people who are native born. Where are the local lynch mobs to intimidate them?

In the aftermath of the attack at the weekend we have seen some public figures condemn and others attempt to contextualize what happened to the Roma families in Waterford City. Here’s the only real context, men and women were driven from their homes. Frightened children were too.

Equality and New Communities Minister Aodhan O Riordain was emphatic, as well he should be, that he would stand against the mob rule that inspired the four hour siege where over 200 people hurled invective (and some smashed windows) outside the homes of three Roma families. O Riordan has an adults grasp of the dangers of the situation.

The law exists to protect both the innocent and the guilty from each other. The concerned citizens of Waterford would do well to remember that when they lead a purge against the undesirables in their community that a purge can go on for a very long time.

Before long other undesirables will seem like fair game too. There’s bound to be enough home grown miscreants to keep those pitchforks raised for months to come.

Turn your city into an episode of South Park and the result will always be the same.