The mayor of a village in central France has threatened to kill himself over a dispute with 35 traveller families in the area.
Paul Renaudat, the mayor of Chavannes in the department of Cher in central France, originally told police and a local radio station that he planned to commit suicide if the families refused to leave the village.
Despite the fact the caravans left shortly afterwards, Mr Renaudat repeated his claims in the French daily newspaper Le Parisien, adding that he would gladly “sacrifice” himself for the good of France, and would have no hesitation in taking his life should the travellers return.
Mr Renaudat said he has already informed his family of his plans, which stem from the continued presence of travellers in the local stadium and the pressure he is under from the village’s 200 inhabitants to have them removed.
Police have reportedly visited the under-pressure mayor to check on his welfare but publicly declared him to be in good health. Local authorities have, however, confiscated Mr Renaudat’s legally-owned hunting rifles and his family are said to have taken him to a hospital for a check-up.
Speaking to Le Parisien, Mr Renaudat said: “The next caravan that turns up on communal land, I will disappear… There have been others who made sacrifices so the Republic could move forward, and I am ready to do the same”.
He added that he would “defend tooth and nail” the “moral contract” he had entered into with his constituents.
He went on to say: “I didn’t give any parking permit [to the traveller families], and I was forced to put up with their presence for a week... So I felt I had failed in my mission as mayor, and that’s why I wanted to end my life“.
Mr Renaudat’s suicide threat is the latest in a long line of controversial comments made by public officials about France’s travelling community.
Only a few weeks ago Gilles Bourdouleix, an MP and mayor of the town of Cholet in the Maine and Loire region of western France, was accused of saying “Hitler maybe did not kill enough [French travellers]”.
The comments were allegedly made during a confrontation between Bourdouleix and the residents of around 100 caravans which were illegally parked in a local authority-owned field.
And earlier this year the European Roma and Travellers Forum announced it would be suing right-wing politician Jean-Marie Le Pen for alleged incitement to racial hatred.
The campaign group claims the 85-year-old founder of the Front National party labelled travellers “smelly” and “rash-inducing” during a rally in the city of Nice.
The following day the city’s mayor and centre-right UMP deputy Christian Estrosi stoked tensions further by labelling the Roma community “criminals” and proposing tougher measures for dealing with them, including installing video surveillance in Roma and traveller camps.