I’ve the alarm clock radio rather masochistically set to RTE One. I find the smug self-satisfied world of our nation’s greatest propaganda machine enough to jolt me out of bed on even these grim mornings.
So imagine my mood as I woke up to a story about a home ear-marked for Traveller accommodation being burnt out in darkest Donegal.
Discrimination to the Traveller community isn’t new. It has a long, ugly history in Ireland. It could be argued that bringing up the topic of Travellers and their rights (or lack of) is as divisive a topic in Ireland as abortion. You’ve only to check the comments under any story on Travellers to see the hate-soaked generalisations. Given that the Traveller population is in the region of 40,000, about 1%, of the population, most of these commentators have never sat down and talked to a Traveller. But that is okay because Donegal’s Cllr Sean McEniff has the answer!
Yep, lurching into conciousness I was treated to the syrupy-voiced bigot trying to defend his comments on the proposed Traveller accommodation just prior to it being burnt out. Because what makes this story all the more juicy then the usual mundane discrimination Travellers face is that two local councillors, McEniff and Cllr Eugene Dolan, called for the segregation of Irish Travellers from the settled community. In keeping with the best apartheid practices of South Africa and the southern states of the USA. Dolan even suggested he wouldn’t care if Irish Travellers ended up in Spike Island. Bear in mind they were talking about a family of 13 which no doubt includes children and infants.
There are calls for McEniff to lose his council seat and the party whip in keeping with the punishment meted out last year to the Fine Gael Mayor of Naas, Darren Scully. And rightfully so.
But for me the arrogance of McEniff suggested a man that knew his constituency well and believed he had a political mandate for his words. Because McEniff and his ilk are voted in on this type of discrimination. To be fair this is not Donegal’s disease but something that is rotten to the core of rural and urban Ireland, a hate that crosses the class boundaries. I’ve sat in rooms with primary healthcare professionals sharing stories of the ‘them’, Travellers who aren’t deserving, who don’t behave the way we think they should, who are dirty, violent and criminal.
Traveller accommodation if provided, is often on the outskirts of town or in isolated accommodation Travellers are routinely denied entry to pubs, clubs and hotels. They get followed around shops by the security and their children run the gauntlet of school yard bullying and an education system that doesn’t value their identity or history. They are one of the most marginalised groups in Irish society and they have the early mortality, suicide and infant death rates to prove it.
In a way that house was burnt down by all of us. By those who in their words and actions continue to discriminate against the Travelling Community. By those who vote for parties and politicians who have failed to address the needs of this community for decades. And, even by those of us who sit there and don’t speak up when we hear this shit. Who don’t pull people up for their hate. As with racism, sexism and homophobia hatred against Travellers should have no place in a modern Ireland.
For some on the ball coverage of who Irish Travellers are have a nosey at this.