By: Daniel O'Carroll | Published Friday, December 21, 2012, 8:22 PM | Updated Friday, December 21, 2012, 8:22 PM
Dramatic footage of Irish Travellers holding 'sulky' horse races on a busy Cork commuter road has gone viral, while police have promised to prosecute those involved in holding the unofficial races.
The amazing footage (below) has been viewed almost 200,000 times on YouTube, and featured in a BBC report. It shows unidentified members of the Travelling Community racing horses on the wrong side of a major Irish highway, before a police car joins in the chase, as oncoming traffic swerves to avoid collision.
The contest between the two riders featuring in the video was a traditional harness horse race, but this was one of the first times one had been held on a major public throughway -- and captured on amateur video for astonished viewers around the world to see.
The head-to-head battle between two riders on sulkies - traditional Traveller carts with two wheels and a seat - lasted almost seven minutes on video.
Approximately sixty spectators are visible towards the start and end of the videos uploaded, while police attempt to block the road in the direction the horses are traveling.
A following party often three cars abreast wide follows the two competitors, while traffic in the opposite direction can be seen swerving onto the hard shoulder.
Pavee Point, the Travellers' rights organization that seeks to ensure that the minority has a fair place in Irish society, while working to undo discrimination towards the ethnic group, decried the races.
A statement from the organization said that "What we saw on Saturday, what we saw in that video was just a serious risk to life, and there's nothing cultural about that, you can't defend that on cultural grounds, and no Traveller is trying to,".
Ben Archibald, the group's spokesperson, described the incident as 'senseless', adding that sulky and horse races can be conducted in safer and better supervised locations than public highways.
“We are concerned that the practice of sulky racing, which is a longstanding tradition within and outside the traveller Community, should not be conflated with the actions of the participants in this event — sulky racing can be carried out in a way which is safe and well regulated, where there is space for it to take place," the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile Superintendent Con Cadogan of Gurranabraher Garda Station described the incident as "a clear breach of road traffic legislation and posed a significant danger to those involved and to other road users".
A later statement from the police said that “The matter is being fully investigated at the moment. The gardaí arrested one male person at the scene in what were extremely difficult circumstances at the time. We are following a definite line as regards a number of other people who were involved."
A number of prosecutions have also been promised.
The 2006 Census reported that there were approximately 22,000 Travellers resident in the Republic of Ireland. They maintain a nomadic lifestyle and often speak Shelta, or Cant, in addition to English.