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Friday 21 July 2017

‘Once it's what you want to hear you’re all for it’ – Brenda Power defends controversial traveller article

Brenda Power
Brenda Power
Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

JOURNALIST Brenda Power has defended an article she wrote critical of the traveller lifestyle.

The Equality Authority and travellers group Pavee Point have both called for the article to be withdrawn.

However journalist Brenda Power this afternoon defended the article on RTE’s Liveline, condemning the Equality Authority for attempting to ‘shut down debate’.

“This is par for the course for the Equality authority and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties to basically close down any criticism or debate on the lifestyle of travellers specifically with regards to the feuding that goes on.

"The crime here appears to be commenting on this kind of savagery but not actually conducting it.

She claimed that the attack on boxer John Joe Nevin would have attracted a greater level of outrage if it had been conducted by a member of the settled community.

“They said I was inciting risk -  if anyone is inciting risk it’s them. They’ve singled me out for targeting by a group of people not known for settling their disagreements with debate, they settle them with machetes.”

However Martin Collins of  Pavee Point defended the group’s criticism of the column.

“The article is full of generalisations, assumptions and stereotypes. She is unleashing her own stereotypes.

“Let’s not confuse free speech with hate speech, as this article constitutes hate speech. It infers all travellers are inherently violent, lazy and drunk.

“It’s populist, sensationalist, dangerous and irresponsible,” he claimed.

Ms Power then questioned Mr Collins on why the group hadn’t issued a statement condemning the attack on John Joe Nevin.

Mr Collins responded that the group didn’t have time to issue statements on every issue involving a member of the travelling community.

However Ms Power interjected the reason they didn’t do it was because “these feuds and savagery are so common you’d have no time for anything else”

“I think its indefensible that that lifestyle continues to be perpetuated and defended by you in this day and age. Encourage people to settle and take jobs to send their children to school”, Ms Power said.

Mr Collins said the aim of Pavee Point was to improve living conditions for travellers: “Brenda, we want all those things. Let’s be clear Pavee Point have made it clear we want employment, we want education. Pavee point is working very hard to try and achieve those things.”

Mr Collins then claimed that the article Ms Power wrote undermined the group’s work.

“I undermined your work? You don’t think someone setting upon an Olympic medallist with a stick with four inch nails in it undermines your work?” she asked.

“You have got to reassure the settled community that this kind of  behaviour is unacceptable in the travelling community. I think you should find the time to issue to odd statement condemning traveller behaviour.”

Mr Collins also disputed Ms Power’s claim that the group was trying to shut down debate.

“Everyone has an opinion and everyone should contribute to a debate on issues between travellers and the settled community, we’re all for that”, he said.

However Ms Power disagreed: “You’re not. Once it’s what you want to hear you’re all for it. Once it’s the Irish Times line you’re all for it.”

She claimed that any time the group disagreed with something they went to the Equality authority.

Mr Collins told host Joe Duffy that the group would be making a complaint to the Press Ombudsman about the article.

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