Wednesday 28 September 2016

Sarah Jane Dunne: Residents' 'victory' over Travellers is a sad day for equality in Ireland

To end descrimination, people must educate themselves on the Travelling community, writes Sarah Jane Dunne

Sarah Jane Dunne

Published 25/10/2015 | 02:30

DEVASTATED: Sarah Jane Dunne, daughter of Traveller music legend Pecker Dunne is disgusted by residents’ protest
DEVASTATED: Sarah Jane Dunne, daughter of Traveller music legend Pecker Dunne is disgusted by residents’ protest

Like everyone in the Travelling and the settled community, I was horrified to hear the news of the tragic fire in Carrickmines which claimed the lives of 10 people from my community. The feelings of shock deepened when we learned that so many children had lost their lives.

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I am currently living in the UK, but I was reading those terrible reports online about this awful event in the hours after it happened.

But in the week that those who died were laid to rest, I think the aftermath of events, involving family members of those affected by the tragedy, indicates the seriousness of the discrimination faced by the Travelling community in Ireland.

The fact is that families are grieving at this time at the loss of 10 people - men, women and children - and they will be carrying that loss in their hearts for years to come.

Following this shocking disaster the family of those who perished were turned away from a pub where they were trying to get lunch.

Furthermore, protests were taking place by locals who are fighting against the families receiving emergency accommodation near their homes.

To protest against a family who are seeking emergency accommodation, in light of the circumstances surrounding the events, is just inhumane.

I have read that the local residents had wanted to build a playground in the area.

Fair enough, they want a playground. But do you honestly think for one second that if this family was not from the Travelling community that such an issue would be raised?

It is because of the accepted discrimination and prejudice against Travellers that these protests could and did take place.

People raised concerns that the accommodation would not be a temporary solution; that the planned six months of the "temporary" accommodation would go on indefinitely.

This is understandable but a point that I would make, and it is in fact a point that I heard Martin Collins, from Pavee Point, make on the radio the other day, is that something can be done to develop a secure contract that states the site would have existed for a certain period of time.

I am sure this is something which was not beyond the control of the council and the solicitors.

At the end of the day, this was to be an emergency solution and I would have thought that those who were involved in the protests really needed to reflect on the fact that these are human beings, people who are grieving and trying to cope with what has happened to them and their kin.

We truly need to see a change in attitude in this country towards the Travelling people.

This time last year I was at the Yellow Flag Awards which were presented in Dublin, where the Minister of State for Equality, Aodhán Ó Riordáin, was a guest speaker.

He stated that Traveller ethnicity would be 'a reality' in six months. We are still waiting. Until people recognise and educate themselves as to what the Travelling community is really about, discrimination will continue. The State's recognition of Traveller ethnic minority status is a requirement.

I just don't understand why it is taking so long, why promises are being made and then broken. I feel that this would be such a positive event for the community, especially considering recent events. Travelling culture is a major part of Irish culture, it has shaped Irish culture and it is about time that this is recognised.

On the day the last of the victims were buried, it emerged that the residents had "won". The survivors of this awful tragedy will be accommodated in a car park because the council didn't want to get bogged down in costly and lengthy litigation.

I think it is a sad day for Ireland, and further proof that Travellers are second-class citizens in our country.

Sunday Independent

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