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Time to remove obstacle of bigotry from traveller accommodation – Ellis

4 November, 2015 - by Dessie Ellis TD

Sinn Féin TD for Dublin North West Dessie Ellis has said it is time that bigotry and discrimination be removed as an obstacle to providing decent and secure accommodation for traveller communities. He was speaking in favour of a Sinn Féin Dáil motion calling for recognition of Traveller ethnicity and reform of the process of providing traveller accommodation.

Deputy Ellis said:

“After the Carrickmines tragedy where 5 children and five adults lost their lives, I thought that perhaps we would see an outpouring of humanity by settled people towards travellers or at least this family. Instead we saw hatred, bitterness, and a casual racist position common across the settled community rear its ugly head. It underlined the day to day marginalisation of travellers from wider society and the challenges we face but it was the tip of the iceberg unfortunately.

“In the weeks that followed, we saw middle class settled people protesting the housing of an orphaned child because he was a traveller. Then, we had the Taoiseach and a senior Labour Minister speak of travellers as if they were second class citizens who could not be trusted to wake their loved one in well-worn Irish tradition. It is time we faced up to this bigotry at a community and institutional level. Travellers are a distinct ethnicity, with a language and a culture that must be respect, supported and cherished because while they are not just Irish they are very much also Irish. They are part of our rich heritage and they will be part of our future.

“This is why we must begin to turn back the years of hatred, distrust and marginalisation and offer the hand of friendship to the traveller community. We must recognise their ethnicity. We must teach the children of Ireland in schools about their proud traditions and about the shameful oppression they have suffered. We must foster a society where the bigotry caused by the policy of sameness is a thing of the past.

“Travellers live in some of the worst conditions in the state. Dilapidated caravans, mobile homes, prefabs that can only be called shacks is what amounts to traveller specific accommodation today. Nomadism was practically outlawed but by virtue of the terrible conditions many travellers have been left in they have chosen to go back on the road.

“The traveller accommodation budget has been cut from 70 million euro to just 4.3 million euro. Traveller programmes generally have been slashed to a fraction of that funding. Travellers have born far more than their share of the austerity meted out by this government, while right wing populist politicians demonise the community giving a wink and a not to bigotry while saying obviously bigoted things  behind closed doors and too constituents who share their feelings.

“Local Authorities have failed to provide traveller accommodation as have local councillors failed to stand up to bigotry. We must remove the influence of populism and bigotry from the provision of the basic right to a home for travellers. This is why we need a Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee empowered with the ability to drive the delivery of traveller accommodation.” 

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