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(en) Ireland: Workers Solidarity #81 - Ireland's 'Traditional' Racism Remains An interview with Mrs Ellen Mongan, a Traveller with seven children

From "Andrew" <andrew@flag.blackened.net>
Date Tue, 25 May 2004 09:11:37 +0200 (CEST)


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It's 2004 and close to 1,000 Traveller famlies are still living on the
roadside without access to basic facilities-water, sanitation or
electricity. Official accommodation is often overcrowded, poorly
maintained and situated in wholly unsuitable locations, beside
rubbish dumps or dangerous, busy main roads with no pedestrian access.
In 2002, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was
enacted which changed trespass from a civil to a criminal offence.
Camping on private or public ground can result in a 3,000 euro
fine, confiscation of property and/or one month in jail. Between
2002 and 2003, 88 evictions of Travellers took place under this
legislation. Travellers are being criminalised because of the
consistent failure of the Government to provide both permanent
and transient halting sites.

Mrs. Ellen Mongan, a Traveller woman with seven children, lives
in St Margaret's Halting Site, Ballymun.

How long have you been living here on this site?

I'm back on this site now about twelve months. I'd been living
here originally and then we moved and were living on the side of
the road for a couple of years with no facilities or anything. We
were down around the country and then out around Swords.

How many families are there altogether on this site?

There's about 62 or 63 families. One side of the site is more
packed than where we are. The site was only designed for one
family per bay-there's only one toilet and one shower unit.
There's 30 bays and 62 families. This is because of the new
(Anti) Trespass Law people are on top of one another. The (Anti)
Trespassing Law affected me you see - that's why I had to move
back in here.

That was out in Swords at the back of the airport. There's an
official site and an unofficial site. There was a couple of other
families there. Aer Rianta owned the land and the Council only
rented that land. Now there's talk of building a new runway and
Aer Rianta threatened me. I wasn't served with notice to go but I
would have been because I was illegally parked.

We were all told we would be evicted and I didn't wait to be
evicted because they tow your caravan to the pound and you'd
have to pay for every day that it'd be there. It was very bad that
time. There were no toilets. There was no water. There was no
electricity or anything out there. That was where my daughter
Lena got knocked down and her leg was broken-the traffic is very
bad out by the airport. That was when my sister took me in-she
said she'd let me in here to double up with her.

What are the facilities like here on the site?

Each bay has its own shower unit and toilet and a little utility
room. Each family wouldn't have that - you could have more than
12 or 13 people using the one toilet and shower. I think the site is
overcrowded now because of that law.

When you're on a site like this the Council say you are being
accommodated but you're not - it's the same as you letting me
stay with you for a while.

Do you think that Travellers in Ballymun are going to benefit
from the regeneration of Ballymun?

I think it'll change things - you don't know for the better of for the
worse. Everyone on the site won't get a house. Only 20 of the 60
families are going to get houses.

Have you as a Traveller woman suffered racism and
discrimination in Ireland?

Y'know when you go into shops you can hear the security bell
being pressed. Then they get the people to walk after you. I
remember one time a good few years ago we were staying down
in Cavan. I went into a shop to buy two dresses for the little ones.
I was standing at the checkout when the manager came running
and just literally dragged me out of the shop. "Don't you know
you're barred from this shop?" he said to me. I was never in the
shop before in my life. I was heavily pregnant at the time. It was
very embarrassing, frightening as well.

It's the same ringing up and booking for weddings. If they know
you're a Traveller they won't let you. Discrimination is worse now
than when I was younger. Maybe that's because people are more
aware of it now, I don't know. I remember years ago going to
school in the country and I was treated the same as everyone else,
but when I had my children they were marginalised in school.
They used to have a Traveller's class that went slower than the
mainstream class.

Did you travel much when you were growing up?

Only after I got married. I'd been living in a house since I was
about 12. I was the oldest of 18 children and before my father and
mother settled down I remember living in the tents and the
wagons.

Do you think the travelling days are over?

Oh yeah-they are. They're gone. Too much hassle with the Law.
Anyone with children are trying to get them a bit of education by
staying in the one place. It seems to be the only way forward now.
Probably in time to come the younger people won't know what it
was like to travel except to go on a holiday. It's sad. Their
culture is being taken away from them.

Useful links

* Anarchism and Anti - Racism in Ireland
http://struggle.ws/wsm/racism.html
For many years racism in Ireland was primarily directed
against Travellers because our weak economy and racist
immigration laws made Ireland an unattractive destination for
immigrants
* Refugees & Asylum seekers in Ireland http://struggle.ws/wsm/refugee.html
A collection of articles from Workers Solidarity about racism
against refugees and Asylum seekers in Ireland and the struggle
against it
* Racism and Irish travellers http://struggle.ws/wsm/ws/2004/talks/travell.html
Irish travellers are an ethnic minority who are culturally
separate to the rest of Irish society. Because they are white and
most of the are Irish, people reject the idea that the concept of
racism applies to them. However an examination of policies and
practises operated by the state and by non-state bodies clearly
shows that it is racism that defines these policies and practises.
====================================
This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'.
http://struggle.ws/wsm/ws/2004/81/democracy.html

We also provide PDF files of all our publications for you to print
out and distribute locally

Print out the PDF file of this issue


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