Not in our back yard?




When I taught in Canada, one of the novels we studied was To Kill A Mockingbird, about the trial of a black man in the deep South for assaulting a white woman. The book exposed the racism and prejudice that runs so deep in that society and my students frequently expressed their disgust with the white populaton. “Everyone should be treated equally!” they’d declare. Then I’d ask them about the native people living in their city – what we used to call Red Indians – who suffered from destructive levels of alcoholism, educational failure and poverty. “Forget it – those guys just want to sit around all day drinking booze. Bunch of bums!” I’d be told.

It was an interesting insight into how good we are at weighing in on the side of persecuted minorities far away but pitiless when confronted with similar minorities on our doorstep. Sinn Féin, I note, have a motion in the Dail, urging that Travellers be recognized as an ethnic group. I assume that will afford them greater protection and equality before the law. They certainly need all the support they can get.

Some three weeks ago ten Travellers, including a number of children, died in a fire at their site in Carrickmines, Co Dublin. There were widespread expressions of sympathy. But when the authorities tried to establish a temporary site nearby for the bereaved families, the local people blocked it and refused to allow diggers to enter and prepare the site. After the funerals, several hotels refused entrance to grieving travllers.

In the west of Ireland, a man shot and wounded a traveller who entered his property, then followed him onto the road where the wounded man was trying to escape and shot him dead. Public sympathy was expressed, less for the hapless traveller than for elderly people who have to guard their property against robbery by travellers.

And so it goes. You can probably think of other instances nearer home. We ignore the appalling mortality figures for travellers, their educational failure, their lack of access to running water and heat, their general rejection by the rest of the population as though they had some disease.

Let’s hope the Sinn Féin motion results in some real change for these people, because for decades their treatment has been an appalling indictment of the Irish people.

If we want to see the face of prejudice, maybe all we need do is pick up a mirror.









10 Responses to Not in our back yard?

  1. Iolar November 4, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Stereotypes are usually associated with a lack of knowledge. In the midst of the ‘moral panic’ about crime, there is a need to examine evidence. Statistics show that there has been no massive increase in crime in the Irish Republic in the last twenty years associated with the Travelling community, white collar crime, well that is a different kettle of fish. Experience from Ireland and elsewhere shows that the labelling and demonisation of a vulnerable minority contributes to the conditions where attacks and discrimination are tolerated in some communities.

    The New York Times featured a report about recent events in Dublin:

    “Few issues divide Irish society like attitudes toward Travellers, whose name has become a byword for criminal activity and antisocial behavior. Governments have wrestled for decades with how best to deal with them. Policies have at times included outright efforts at assimilation, but in the main, the Travellers have been regarded as a problem to be solved rather than a distinct group whose way of life should be respected.”

    There tends not to be the same hue and cry about financial terrorism. Some bankers have the ability to depart for warmer climates by virtue of offshore bank accounts while people remain homeless and die on the streets in Dublin. The country is awash with drugs, drugs that are sold by individuals in possession of assault rifles, other guns and who wear body armour. Body armour, stab vests, ballistic helmets and plates may be purchased for as little as £200 per item. Companies advertise such ‘quality’ products and customers may wear their armour with complete confidence.

    Unfortunately there are people who still believe that poverty is the root cause of crime.

  2. billy November 4, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    think their dna will show their as irish as me or you,hardly ethnic.

  3. Jim.hunter November 4, 2015 at 1:07 pm #


  4. ANOTHER JUDE November 4, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    I think we all suffer from prejudice of one sort or another, I always considered myself a left wing believer in the whole brotherhood of man type of thinking but as soon as I saw crowds of Muslims heading deeper and deeper into the heart of Europe I found myself thinking `Who are these people? What do they want?`Likewise, any sighting on tv of the British royal family sets me off on a rant. As for the travellers, I would be in favour of them living wherever they wanted to, just so long as it was not near MY house.

  5. Belfastdan November 4, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Ward and Doherty are my family names both very common among the Travelling people so I cannot see them being ethnically different from myself. They are our own people.

    It is true that there is unreasonable prejudice against the Travelling community. It is not so long ago in the Republic on the back of the tragic drowning of a young Syrian child that there was a clamour for the government to allow migrants settle in Ireland and all the available support be provided for them. Contrast that to the attitudes of other Irish people against allowing the bereaved families of the halting site fire to have temporary use of a site.

    It is true that there are anti social elements within the Travelling community and this has to be addressed, but we all know people from the settled community who we would not like to be anywhere near.

    There has to be a change of attitude within the Travelling community towards education. My wife has worked with young Travellers many and in particular the girls see no point in gaining an education.

    To end on a brighter note a I noticed on RTE’s website mother and daughter from the Travelling community both gained degrees so it is not a tolly dark picture it just takes time and effort and goodwill on both sides.

  6. Bridget Cairns November 4, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    I am familiar with this road, adjacent to Foxrock, where the travellers had lived for many years without incident as far as I am aware. As far as I am aware they were to be relocated nearby. I wonder, as do many, why the locals took their stance, when they had no trouble before from this particular group. Did they see this tragedy as an opportunity to rid this affluent area of the travellers presence.

  7. Ryan November 4, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

    The Traveller community in Ireland AND Britain face massive discrimination from Hotels, clubs, employers, government agencies and also the general public. I remember reading many articles on how suicide rates in the Traveller community is much higher compared to that of the general public, especially amongst males. Traveller education attainment levels are amongst the worst in Ireland and Britain, they maybe ARE the worst. The hit TV show “My big fat gypsy wedding” gave an insight into Traveller life and one thing that was a repeated theme in the show was how some Traveller males requested that their identity be hid, why? because they feared being seen on the show and being exposed as a Traveller to potential employers they feared would discriminate against them. The narrator of the show explained this was the reason why some faces were blurred out.

    The Traveller community in Ireland/Britain deserve the same rights as any other community. I understand there may be some anti-social elements within the Traveller community but every community has their problems.

    Those individuals in the South who blockaded the site being made for that Traveller community that lost people/children in that fire should be ashamed of themselves, they really are a disgrace. The last thing those families need while grieving is discrimination and intolerance.

    The Irish/British Governments have to start engaging with Travellers, draw up a plan to combat educational underachievement, discrimination against Travellers, safe and agreed camp sites, combating issues within the Traveller community, cross community work with Travellers and non-travellers, educating the general public on the Traveller community, etc.

  8. KopperbergCentral November 5, 2015 at 6:19 am #

    Own worst enemy. They have a reputation for robbing the eye out of your head as quick as they have for tarmacking the drive

    cing your drive

  9. Perkin Warbeck November 5, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    There was a truly nectarous irony, Esteemed Blogmeister, about the hoohah in the hard-necked and manipulative media on Liffeyside which the Carrickmines tragedy provoked.

    For in the same week one of Ireland’s most successful and least celebrated sportsmen, the much travelled Joe Ward (21) was being awarded his latest in a litany of global medals, this time in a city where the hookhah is a cultural icon: Doha.

    A silver medal to go with his jockstrap full of world gold, silver and bronze baubles which he has already mined in his short but spar-spangled career.

    Being a member of the Traveller Community, of course, this fact of the boxer’s identity got little or no coverage for Big Joe. One is almost tempted to insert here (but will desist) the mandatory: Doh !

    It was not the only facet of the Baby-faced Boxer’s victory which was disrespected by the rabbit-punching Babbits of the uber-conforming communication industry in the FSS. While ‘respect, the lack of’, as shown (allegedly) to coach Billy Walsh was the mantra of the manipulative media, it was more than mirrored by the disrespect (real) shown to Joe Ward.

    A clear case of the northpaw not knowing what the southpaw was doing.

    The disrespect was shown in the minimalist coverage devoted to the devilish detail of the. latest standing on the podium of and by Joe. This disrespect (real) reached odium proportions in the following way.

    The lightheavyweight from Moate lost out to the legendary Jose La Cruz of Cuba. Though as far as the high-dudgeon hacks bludgeoned the IABA (Irish Amateur Boxing Association) this multi-winner of World Titles and Boxer of the Games might as well have been a name chosen at random by a few seconds of finger-walking from el directoria telefonica de Havana.

    It was clear the hymn-sheet bleaters,bloated with self-importance, had not the remotest interest in the Moate man’s inconvenient and minor success.

    Cen fath sin? / Why, this?

    Perhaps the would-be George Hooks have become a little too fond of the hookhah as a refuge from reality. A hookhah of course is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for vapourising and smoking flavoured tobacco called shisha in which the vapour or smoke is passed through a water basin before inhalation.

    (Mise Shisha, is sinne me na Eire or DeValera ).

    And what, pray, might lead the multi-stemmed (alleged) but one-stemmed (real) media to seek refuge from reality in oblivion?

    Could it be that the rugby-worshipping and oval-vowelled Occidental Brits (for it is they !) were using the Sock Exhange as a useful tool for diversionary purposes? To distract the public’s attention from the simultaneous shellacking the game of choice for the anglicised Alickadoos and Stock Exhange shoneens suffered?

    Cherish the very thought.