Isaac Doherty (above) and John Mangan (pic 4) in front of their homes at the former halting site in Balgaddy, Clondalkin, Dublin, where a number of traveller families including 28 children face eviction. The site was due to be cleared today by South Dublin County Council. Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre is calling on Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy TD to intervene and ban Traveller evictions until the Traveller accommodation crisis is over
Here in Balgaddy in West Dublin where South Dublin County Council is to evict 3 Traveller families today. The families say they’ve nowhere to go. Security and vehicles waiting outside. A van is blocking the entrance to the site. pic.twitter.com/JnWll28vmR
Presidential hopeful Peter Casey spoke to Áine Lawlor – in light of his announcement that he will be taking a break from the campaign this weekend to consider whether or not he will continue to run for president.
His name is already on the ballot.
The decision to take a break follows criticism of him saying he didn’t believe Travellers should get ethnic minority status – despite this passing in May of last year.
And he made further comments about Travellers in Thurles, Co Tipperary where a number of families from the Travelling community are refusing to move into newly built homes because of a dispute with Tipperary County Council.
A statement from the Travelling families involved about the matter can be read here.
During this afternoon’s radio, following a visit to the location of the homes yesterday, Mr Casey said: “There’s not a racist bone in my body.”
From the News At One interview…
Mr Casey started out saying the past 48 hours had been “strange to say the least”.
Peter Casey: “I’ve been accused of being a racist. This is just absolutely not what my campaign is about. I’m going to take the weekend and I’m going to reflect on it and I’m going to talk to my family and my wife and my children and my advisors and I’ll make a decision on Monday as to what’s the right thing to do.”
“I mean I promised my mother I was going to stand years ago for the presidency of Ireland. She would not want to me to stand if I was going to get elected on this platform. That is not what I’m about.
“You know I feel very passionate that there is things that need to be done, like, for example, I set up my business in Buncrana and, you know, it’s just…
Áine Lawlor: “All right..”
Casey: “It’s, you know, it’s just so wrong…”
Lawlor: “Ok, let’s take this step by step because you seem quite upset. Are you?”
Casey: “I am, yes.”
Lawlor: “Were you surprised by the reaction to your remarks about Travellers in Cabra and Thurles.”
Casey: “You know, I was surprised beyond belief. I thought we’d got way beyond this. I didn’t even realise that there had been this law passed last year giving special ethnic status to…”
Lawlor: “You didn’t know that Travellers were recognised in Irish law? Under Irish law?”
Casey: “I didn’t. I hadn’t realised that.”
Lawlor: “That this is a conversation and indeed a campaign that had been waged a long time and it had come up several times over several…”
Casey: “There’s so many things that have been going on. I’ve been, as you know, it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve moved back full time to Ireland so it’s…”
Lawlor: “So you didn’t realise what you were getting into when you said that?”
Casey: “No idea. I thought we were way beyond that. We are such a melting pot of different cultures, nationalities, you know, we’ve got so many, we’ve got 120,000 Polish people here, we’ve got African people, people from Africa, people from all over, you know, all over the world. All these different nationalities now proudly call Ireland their home. And I thought we were beyond…The Proclamation says ‘cherish all the children of the nation equally’….
Lawlor: “Well a lot of people thought we were way beyond, as a nation, having Travellers singled out by any candidate who…”
Casey: “That’s wrong…”
Lawlor: “And pitting them against the homeless in Dublin?”
Casey: “I wasn’t pitting them against the homeless in Ireland. I was pointing out the absurdity of these amazing houses sitting there empty because people were demanding that they would be given stables and an acre of land….”
Lawlor: “But you didn’t afford the Travellers of Cabra, they said, afterwards, and they were upset. You’re upset that they were upset because you didn’t meet them.”
Casey: “That is absolutely not true. It was well known that I was coming down there. I announced I was coming down there to meet with them, to meet with Martin Collins. And I announced that I was coming down. I went down there with my wife and we stood there for 15 minutes or so, answered questions, they all, there were literally 25/30 yards across the road….”
Lawlor: “Were those people, people whose votes you are seeking, were they not entitled to the courtesy, particularly when you, as a candidate were using all the attention that comes with being a candidate, to highlight this issue and their dispute with the council. Were they not entitled to the courtesy of the candidate at least coming up and saying, face to face, ‘do you know what? Here’s my problem. And here, as president, is why, how I would like to address it.”
Casey: “I felt it was inappropriate for me to go over. There was like 25 to 30 cameraman there. I felt it would have been invasive…”
Lawlor: “Your office could have said something …”
Casey: “They knew I was there, they knew I was 30 yards away…”
Lawlor: “And they knew what you’d said about them…”
Casey: “And I waited for them, I waited for them to come over, I said ‘they know I’m here’. There was two police cars at either side, the road was [inaudible], everybody knew I was there. And then I went up to the Hayes Hotel and a councillor John Cross came up and said ‘I think you should go back down’ and I said, cause they’re holding, they waited until I left before they came out with their placards and then held a press conference, they waited until I drove off. They timed it…”
Lawlor: “Was that not the right of any citizen of this Republic to protest?”
Casey: “It is but you then can’t say that I didn’t go to meet them, I did go to meet them. And I then went…”
Lawlor: “But it was up to them to approach you?”
Casey: “It would have been wrong for me to go and knock on their door with a whole world of interviewers and they were actually, you know, aggressive, some of them. One of them was actually quite rude to me. And I felt…I then went to the Hayes Hotel and invited them to come up. Margaret Casey, ironically, is one of the leaders, and the councillor contacted her and said ‘look, Peter’s here, he’s absolutely happy to sit here and wait for you to come up and meet with him’. And she declined the offer. And I said ‘I’ll go down and see here anytime she wants to meet with me, I’m prepared to talk’.”
Lawlor: “There are many people in the Travelling community Peter Casey who, from the debate the other night, right through what happened in Thurles, they find the way you have been talking, the way you have been describing the Traveller community is racist.”
Casey: “I grew up in Derry when you couldn’t get a job when you were Catholic, you were discriminated against because you were Catholic, that was one of reasons I left. It’s one of the reasons I left. I’m so conscious of the evil of discrimination, of bigotry and of racism. I, there’s not a racist bone in my body. And I really, I find it…”
Lawlor: “Maybe not intentionally but do you understand that you could have caused that offence to a group of people who do see you language and they way that you have been dealing with this issue and this campaign as racist? Do you understand that?”
Casey: “No I don’t. Because I’m not a racist…”
Lawlor: “And for Michael D Higgins talks about the lower life expectancy, and the greater mental health problems, the greater health problems, this is a community that has lost out and loses out by every indication going on this society.
Casey: “And I, that is totally, totally wrong that that is the case. But the way to cure the problem is not to sort of make them feel like they’re special and they’re different, the way is to help them feel that they’re included. That they are as Irish as I am. I got a lift to the…”
Lawlor: “And you think standing outside empty houses and calling the people ‘bonkers’ and…”
Casey: “No I didn’t…”
Lawlor: “Do you think that helps?”
Casey: “I did not call the people bonkers. I called the council…”
Lawlor: “Called the dispute bonkers.”
Casey: “I called the dispute, I said the whole thing is bonkers, it’s wrong. That there are people sleeping on the streets in Dublin, you know.”
Lawlor: “You say you’re reconsidering, do you regret running?”
Casey: “At the moment, I’m considering yes. If I had known it was going to come this way, I probably wouldn’t have run because this is not. My platform was to, you know, I’m all about rural Ireland. We have got a tragedy going on in rural Ireland, people are leaving rural Ireland and now because Dublin is so expensive, they can’t afford to go to Dublin, the only option is to go to England which that option might be ruled out if Brexit goes the wrong way. People are leaving…”
Lawlor: “And you seem genuinely distressed in front of me here but there are people who are thinking this is a cynical stunt dreamt up to keep you in the headlines and get you up in the polls over the weekend. Because one way or another, your name is going to be on that ballot paper this day week. People will have to decide themselves whether to vote for you or not.”
Casey: “Well they can’t vote for me if I’m not in the race. So..”
Lawlor: “Your name will be on the ballot paper.”
Casey: “Yeah but they won’t vote for me, if I step down, I’ll encourage them to not vote for me.”
Lawlor: “Will you ask them to endorse Joan Freeman?”
Casey: “Joan would probably be my preferred choice of the other candidates yeah.”
Lawlor: “And when will you know?”
Casey: “I’m going to talk to my family this weekend. I’m going to talk and spend time with my wife and the children. And my advisors and then, you know, at the moment I’m just, we’ll work things out over the weekend and discuss with the family and then make a decision and, you know, there’s…”
Lawlor: “However upset you are now and this must be…we have seen, you know, previous campaigns, previous candidates, people like Mary Banotti, Adi Roche, Gay Mitchell, they’ve all felt, for different reasons and in different ways and in different times, they’ve all felt exactly how horrible a presidential campaign can be for the candidate. On the other hand, are you not showing, one week to go to polling day, your name will be on the ballot paper, are you not showing that you’re a man who fundamentally doesn’t have the temperament to do the job?”
Casey: “That’s the complete opposite. I’m so passionate about making a difference. I’m passionate about…you look at what’s going on in rural Ireland. We should have gone with 4G straight off the bat. Every home in Ireland would have 20-25 megabyte. You know, and we’d have four bars on our cellphones.”
Lawlor: “Are you a wealthy man who’s chasing a dream here and you’ve come up against reality?”
Casey: “There’s nothing wrong with chasing a dream but this is, this is wrong when you’re accusing people of being something they’re not. And it’s not right that people, and you’ve got, you know, politicians jumping on and accusing me of being a racist, I mean it’s just wrong.”
Lawlor: “Well [Taoiseach] Leo Varadkar spoke about divisive remarks designed to get attention for you and your campaign. I mean you are getting the attention. Those remarks are divisive.”
Casey: “I’ve said and it’s in the Proclamation, we should cherish all the children of the nation equally. What’s racist about that? What’s racist about saying that you should treat everyone equally. That’s all I’m saying. I don’t think you should specify any group, any ethnic group at all. The taxi driver the other day was from Pakistan and I said to him ‘are there many Pakistani people in Dublin?’. He said, ‘oh yeah’, he said ‘there’s a large community’. And I said, ‘Would you like to be deemed as an ethnic group?’. He said, ‘no, of course not, we’re Irish. My children, they all speak with Dublin accents’. You know, I mean, they’re proud to be Irish, they’ve made Ireland their home and they don’t want to me, he felt it would be an insult to make them a different group because they’re Irish.”
Peter Casey: “I don’t believe travellers should be given special status. I mean why should they be given special status over and above yourself or myself. You know?”
Kevin Doyle: “They are seen as a minority ethnicity.”
Peter Casey: “That’s a load of nonsense. You know. They’re not Romaning, Romanie, whatever, they’re not from Romany area.
They’re basically people that are camping on somebody else’s land. Imagine the poor farmer whose land that they camped on, you know, and who’d buy the land from him?
The neighbours in the houses all around, do you think they’re going, ‘this is great for my property value because I’ve now got three dozen caravans down the road’, you know. It’s just wrong, you know.
Somebody needs to sit up and say this is nonsense. And here we are are giving them luxurious houses and they’re turning them down because they want stables but they know that nobody else will move into the house, you see.
Can you imagine the brave person that would go, in Dublin that would go ‘I’d love a lovely four-bedroom house with solar panels and beautifully kitted-out kitchens’?’
Do you think they’d move in past all the travellers that are sitting out there waiting, watching them…not going to happen. They’re afraid of them.”
Presidential hopeful Peter Casey, speaking to Kevin Doyle of the Irish Independent on the paper’s podcast, ‘The Floating Voter’.
Casey's comments aren't just offensive, they're historically illiterate. Traveller culture embodies Irish heritage more than settled culture—as any Presidential candidate should know. He should also know he's repeating verbatim English insults about Irish:https://t.co/y6ELRl7kdw
“This week-end we celebrate the first International Human Rights Day with Irish Travellers officially recognised as a minority ethnic group by the Irish State. We will be posting photos and messages on Facebook and Twitter of people wearing the Traveller ethnicity pin.”
From top: President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins; Education Minister Richard Bruton; Irish Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger; Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Dublin Reece Smyth; Ireland soccer player Cyrus Christie with Thomas Collins; Bridgie Nevin, Goretti Horgan and Eamonn McCann; Anne Marie McDonagh; Kathleen Sherlock; and Breda Quilligan.
The launch by the Justice Committee of Reports on Traveller Ethnicity. To wit:
Traveller representatives have expressed confidence of a “historic” announcement in the coming weeks….Committee Chairperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has recommended that the Government should then conduct a review, in consultation with Traveller representative groups, of any legislative or policy changes required on foot of the recognition of Traveller ethnicity.
Pic 2 from left: Independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace with Singer and Senator Frances Black and Sinn Fein’s Justice Committee Chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláinin the AV room at Leinster house.
The Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, North Great Charles Street Dublin 1
John Connors, Christy Moore and Bressie helped launch a position paper on Traveller Men’s Health. Research shows that men in the Travelling community suffer more from depression, low self-esteem and discrimination.
The Pavee Point organisation wants a national strategy to address the suicide rate among the male Travelling community, which is almost seven times the national average.
Research published a decade ago showed Traveller men’s lives were 15 years shorter that the overall male population in Ireland. Pavee Point says there is nothing to suggest that has changed.
The Traveller advocacy group Pavee Point has welcomed the news that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has resolved to support the recognition of Traveller ethnicity.
Mr Kenny said on Wednesday that the Government would begin taking steps towards the recognition of Traveller ethnicity in the new year.
The Taoiseach said he had asked Minister of State at the Department of Justice David Stanton to prepare a report for the social affairs committee on the question of recognising Traveller ethnicity. The report is expected in a few weeks.
From top: Traveller boys in Dublin, 1980 by Brian Palm; The aftermath of the Carrickmines halting site fire, September 10, 2015; Frankie Gaffney
Frankie Gaffney writes:
Primitive, unruly, unkempt, nomadic, prone to thievery and feuding — they ride horses without saddles or stirrups — they’re clannish, ignorant, dirty, lawless and violent.
This is how the English described the Irish people for almost a millenium.
In this the centenary year of 1916, the Irish nation and State wallowed in self-pity over this treatment — and enthusiastically celebrated our violent rejection of it.
It is beyond irony that right to the present day we visit prejudice and racism on our own citizens from the Travelling community in precisely the same terms once used against us.
A barbarous people
“Their want of civilization, shown both in their dress and mental culture, makes them a barbarous people… Exceedingly averse to civil institutions, they lead the same life their fathers did in the woods and open pastures, neither willing to abandon their old habits or learn anything new… In riding, they neither use saddles, nor boots, nor spurs… Abandoning themselves to idleness, and immersed in sloth, their greatest delight is to be exempt from toil…”
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
But this is not from one of the many sensational newspaper articles denigrating Travellers in the Ireland of today, this is from a 12th-century manuscript, Topographia Hiberniae, that was written by a courtier and scholar, Giraldus Cambrensis.
Like all such dehumanising narratives, it was composed with the distinct aim of dominating and dispossessing the people it described.
Indeed, Cambrensis followed the work shortly after with Expugnatio Hibernica — a celebratory account of King Henry II’s invasion of Ireland.
Echoes of these events resound.
It is more than symbolic that at the “Reclaim 1916” event (a commemoration “for the people, by the people”) a traditional Traveller wagon was shamefully prevented by Gardaí on the day from joining the parade as planned.
The current focus on 1916 might lead us into thinking rejection of English tyranny is a modern phenomenon, but this is not so. There has always been resistance to these injustices — militarily, but also diplomatically.
In 1317, the Irish Chieftains penned their “Remonstrance” to the Pope, bemoaning (among other things) the fact that Irish lives were not valued as much as English lives.
While such a state of affairs might belong in the 14th century, it sadly persists.
In June of 2015, six Irish students were killed when a balcony they were partying on collapsed in the university town of Berkeley California.
It is suspected that poor construction or maintenance were at least partly to blame.
Just a few months later that year, ten Irish Travellers perished in a fire.
Overcrowding, due to lack of space and inadequate provision of housing, has been cited as a cause of the death toll.
Five of those who died were children under the age of ten. There were glaring discrepancies in reactions to these two tragedies.
A New York Times piece about the Berkeley tragedy made reference to bad behaviour and drunkenness among Irish J-1 students.
It was slammed for insensitivity, and provoked a massive outcry from a variety of public figures. Officialdom was not silent either — the Irish Ambassador to the USA wrote to the paper and registered a complaint.
The article even prompted a vitriolic condemnation from former President Mary McAleese.
The language McAleese used in her open letter is telling:
“Today in Ireland we are hanging our heads in shock and sorrow at the needless deaths of six of our brightest and best young adults . . . the vast majority [of J-1 students] have been a credit to Ireland and only the very tiniest minority have not.”
Nobody was so enthusiastic in eulogising the victims of the Carrickmines fire.
McAleese and the other high-powered public figures who condemned coverage of the Berkeley tragedy (in the strongest possible terms) weren’t to be heard so robustly defending the Travelling community when they were grossly slandered in a variety of media following Carrickmines.
While it is likewise a small minority of Travellers who engage in bad behaviour, this defense was not offered by our establishment for them — nor, predictably but sadly, were the young children who died in the fire to be declared among “our best”.
This is not paranoid “victim-complex” thinking, or impressionistic “what-aboutery”. There is emerging empirical evidence to confirm this.
A pioneering study by Dr Fergal Quinn and Dr Elaine Vaughan is currently underway at University of Limerick, and looks set to demonstrate conclusively that there was stark media bias in this coverage.
Using linguistic techniques, they analysed articles in our national daily newspapers.
One striking aspect of the data they collected was unusually high incidences of the words “but” and “however” after the word “tragedy” in articles covering Carrickmines.
The study continues, but the fact such a high number of journalists felt the need to qualify the fact that a fire which killed ten human beings was “a tragedy” speaks volumes.
Predictably, worse was to be found in the comments sections.
The Journal.ie actually had to shut theirs down, but even that didn’t prevent people from venting their hate.
Journalist Gene Kerrigan has written powerfully about his shock, as comments such as “So sad” (posted before the thread was closed), were given a thumbs down by 268 people.
It is shocking that anyone could be so callous as to reject an expression of condolence in the wake of such a tragedy — but for hundreds to do so on all such comments is terrifying.
“Shame on you,” McAleese scolded the New York Times in outrage, but their article was mild and respectful in comparison to how the distraught Travelling coommunity were slandered and degraded in our press.
Incredibly, even worse treatment than this media denigration was to face the grieving Carrickmines families and survivors.
The Travelling community not only had to contend with vicious slurs, but in a disgusting and despicable development there were actual protests to prevent the survivors being temporarily accommodated nearby.
Let this sink in for a second: these are not hurtful words, or inappropriately timed references to misbehaviour.
This is people taking to the street and breaking the law to blockade a road, with the sole aim of preventing a devastated group of people from seeking shelter after an unconscionably horrific tragedy — the most lethal fire in this country since the Stardust disaster.
Cars blocking a JCB from entering a field to work on a site earmarked for Travellers who were left homeless following a fire at a halting site in Carrickmines last October
Travellers—Ireland’s only indigenous ethnic group—have existed for centuries, though there is no academic consensus on when the community became distinct. They have their own language known as Cant, which seems to be a mix of Irish, English, Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
Historically, they lived in caravans in encampments on the side of the road or in fields. But today, most of Ireland’s 30,000 travellers live in houses permanently or reside in halting sites, especially built to accommodate mobile homes. Here, they exist in an uneasy balance, neither properly settled nor free from a long history of marginalisation and discrimination that has led to high rates of poverty.
Many halting sites, including the one in Carrickmines, are supposed to be temporary. The living conditions in them are often poor, with overcrowding, poor sanitation, little access to water and electricity.
Despite underperforming at school and an unemployment rate of over 80%, travellers seem to have borne the brunt of austerity: between 2008 and 2013 the community experienced cuts of 85% on housing and education schemes.
Their health is also woefully poor: traveller men live 15 years less than settled men and women live 11 years less than settled women. The suicide rate is six times higher than the rest of the population; the infant mortality rate is of 14.1 per 1,000; in the settled population average is 3.9 per 1,000.
And travellers make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population. Men are between five and 11 times more likes to be imprisoned than settled men while traveller women are 18-22 times more likely to be behind bars.