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(en) Ireland, Working Class Resistance #10 - Go - Move - Shift: Shift Anti-Traveller Racism in Ireland

Date Thu, 15 Dec 2005 07:03:10 +0200

Its power for the course for the mainstream media, politicians and
their lackeys to make a career out of criminalisation and scapegoating
of minorities. In Ireland if a scapegoat is needed all too often
Travellers are made to fit the bill.
One of the most deprived and discriminated against ethnic groups in
our society, to such an extent that Travellers are regularly barred from
shops and pubs. Even people who believe that they are not racist, and
some who see themselves as anti-racist, seem struck blind when it
comes to attitudes to, discrimination against and attacks on the way of
life of Travellers.
As stated by the Irish Traveller Movement,
Travellers are an indigenous minority who, historical sources confirm,
have been part of Irish society for centuries. Travellers long shared
history, cultural values, language, customs and traditions make them
a self-defined group, and one which is recognisable and distinct. Their
culture and way of life, of which nomadism is an important factor,
distinguishes them from the sedentary (settled) population.
To this day Travellers only account for about around 0.5% of the
national population (25,000). The mortality rate for Traveller children
up to the age of 10 is 10 times that for the population as a whole.
Overall the life expectancy of Travellers is around 20% lower than the
general population. Only 10% of the Traveller population are over 40
years of age and only 1% are aged over 65.
Travellers are eight times more likely to live in overcrowded conditions
in comparison with the general population in Northern Ireland. Many
still have extremely limited access to basic amenities such as running
water, electricity and sanitation, including some of those living on
serviced sites. Only 11% are in paid employment of one form or
another, whilst 70% of those who are economically active have had no
paid work in the last ten years.
In the south, legislation has been passed to protect the rights and
freedoms of travellers in terms of the Equal Status Act meanwhile the
Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 only requires local
authorities (councils) to set targets for providing accommodation and
the criminalisation of Travellers has intensified. Section 21 of the
Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2002, which criminalises
trespass on public and private land, has caused great hardship to many
Travellers. This Act allows for the Garda to move Travellers with no
notice on foot of a complaint by the local authority. This has lead to
local authorities evading their responsibilities and calling in the cops to
evict Travellers as a result. According to the Irish Traveller
Movement, "Between 1995 and 2002 only 129 new halting site
bays were provided out of the 2,200 units needed. In 2003, 1,000
families still live on the roadside without access to basic services such
as water and toilets."?

In 2000 approximately 500 families in the south were served with
eviction notices without being offered alternative accommodation. The
evictions of families can be described as,
"The removal of families against their will from land which they
occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of
legal or other protection."?
Before serving an ASBO on two members of the Travelling
community the Mayor of Larne said its purpose was to "get these
people moving and keep them moving"?.
The treatment of Travellers is just another example the role of
government in ensuring uniformity and conformity while actively
engaging in and promoting discrimination and criminalisation.
The Irish Traveller Movement website can be accessed at:


Confronting NIHE Anti-Traveller Racism

On 17th of June members of Organise! joined a protest at the
Northern Ireland Housing Executive against Traveller discrimination.
The protest, called by the Anti-Racism Network due to the
NIHE's role in having an ASBO served on two members of the
Traveller community, was attended by around 40 people with banners,
placards and flags.
The NIHE had advised Larne council to apply an ASBO on two
Travellers barring them from entering Larne town as well as a number
of other places outside Larne Town where they had previously parked.
On the day of their court appearance the Magistrate stipulated that
they must part outside Larne and make their way to the courthouse on
Effectively the two Travellers and their families were being
criminalised as a result of the NIHE's dereliction of its
responsibility to provide temporary halting sites in order to ensure
Travellers are not forced to camp "illegally"?, to ensure children
have access to schools, health care, sanitation, electricity etc. Six
years after taking on this role the NIHE have yet to provide any halting
The protest on June 17th was an embarrassment to the NIHE who are
in the process of setting up a Race Equality Unit and the management
have been forced to state they do not favour ASBOs and that a site will
be provided for the family in this case.

From the Pages of Working Class Resistance, magazine of


Organise Ireland <organiseireland@yahoo.ie>
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