Kevin Myers

Saturday 12 July 2014

We have created a legal apartheid for Travellers, in which aberrant behaviour is actually called 'culture'

Published 17/07/2009|00:00

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There was one striking feature about the shocking story of Simon McGinley, who on Wednesday was convicted of raping an 85-year old woman.

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It is what wasn't reported -- which is that he is a Traveller. Had he been the victim of an attack, his identity as a Traveller would have been all over the media. But he was not the victim. He was the culprit: and thus the almost overwhelming silence about his background.

But no one conversant with the wilder extremes of Traveller behaviour and who heard about what happened in court the other day would be in any doubt about Simon McGinley's origins. It is almost inconceivable that young children from any other background would have been present, as his were (including one in nappies) to hear how he had brutally raped an 85-year-old woman.

Other details confirm this sense of an entirely different moral order. After the trial, his mother abused the victim's adult children, shouting that they should have put their mother in a home. Then there were protests at the refusal of prison officers to let his children speak to him before he was led away. They even shouted: "You didn't murder anyone. You shouldn't have got 21 years."

He himself declared to the victim's offspring: "Just remember. I never done it." (His semen was found on her bed and her injured genitals.)

Later, his mother, Mary McGinley, burst into song outside the courthouse, with a rendition of 'If Tomorrow Never Comes'. Perhaps the strangest aspect to this case was the presence, as a spectator in court, of the woman who McGinley had raped 12 years ago, when she was 13. She, too, is a Traveller. She had been babysitting for the McGinleys in 1997. While driving her home, McGinley violently attacked and raped her. Discovered by his wife in the course of this rape, he drove off naked and assaulted the girl again. She was thrown naked out the van, in front of her mother and his wife. She and her family were threatened with being "cut" -- he always carried a knife -- and told not to report the rape.

She later became famous as the 'Miss C', who went to England for an abortion. And although he was only 25 at the time, the court heard at his first trial that he had a daughter nearly her age.

It is almost impossible to imagine the details of this case occurring within the non-Travelling community, from the wife finding her naked husband raping the 13-year old babysitter, to a 25-year-old man having a child of nearly 13, to his mother singing 'If Tomorrow Never Comes' outside the courtroom in which he had been imprisoned for raping a woman of 85.

Now all of us broadly know that Travellers, from their capital T, to their unreciprocated expectations from the rest of society, are different from us. This dissimilarity has been built into an entire rights industry, which many Travellers know all about, and exploit to the full. Even that risible entity, the Equality Authority, which has done more to provoke the compensation culture than any other government-funded body, has called "Enough".

Of the 37 cases taken to the authority last year, only two were upheld; and of the 35 dismissed, 25 were from Travellers. One such Traveller representative, Heather Rosen, has actually been fined €7,800 by the authority, a truly bizarre achievement, the equivalent of GOAL robbing starving Africans. Her dozens of frivolous complaints, on behalf of Travellers, have cost Clare County Council €150,000 in legal fees. She was actually subsidised to make her complaints by an organisation called Social Entrepreneurs Ireland: well, certainly no one can accuse her of lacking enterprise.

This, alas, cannot be said more generally of her community. Less than 14pc of Travellers are in mainstream employment, the Equality Authority's Niall Crowley revealed last December. Ten separate organisations came together to give employment for Travellers. They managed to get jobs for just 39 of them.

Indeed, the chronic failure to treat Travellers according to normal laws caused Fingal council not to evict some Traveller squatters from Dunsink for years; and then the council had to pay them €5.47m to move.

Moreover, were this column about the poor, baffled and unsuccessful resident of the sink estates of Dublin, Limerick and Galway, it would not cause a legal problem. But because it is about Travellers, absurd "hate" legislation could be invoked against me and this newspaper. For we have created a legal apartheid for Travellers, in which all sorts of aberrant behaviour, from chronic alcoholism, to pathological educational under-achievement and lethal faction fights, is not merely tolerated, but actually called "culture".

The poisonous rights and victimhood litigiousness has been sedulously cultivated by state agencies, not merely corrupting the relationship between the Traveller population and the settled, but also robbing us of our right to tell and hear the truth. Worse still, it has deprived so many Travellers of a sense of moral decency, and so behaviour that is shocking is not even seen as such. Most dreadfully of all, evil men like Simon McGinley are loudly proclaimed by their womenfolk simply to be victims.

kmyers@independent.ie

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