Sunday 27 May 2018

Traveller groups call for apology after Big Phil 'knacker' outburst

Traveller groups have called on Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to apologise for using the "deeply offensive" phrase "knacker" when he attacked the Sunday Independent, and called on him to desist from using the phrase again.

Mr Hogan confronted this reporter several weeks ago about recent negative coverage of him in this newspaper, describing us as "knackers" and threatened that he and his fellow ministers would put "manners" on us.

Following our reporting of Mr Hogan's comments, several Traveller groups are now calling on him to apologise.

In a letter to the Sunday Independent, Traveller activist Martin Mongan said: "The word knacker is a grave insult to the Traveller community. This is akin to calling a coloured person a 'nigger'."

Mr Mongan added: "This sort of racist behaviour needs to be stamped out and it is unbecoming of a politician to engage in such behaviour in this day and age. We expect that, through the medium of the Sunday Independent, Mr Hogan will apologise to the many tens of thousands of Traveller people who reside here and who are disappointed at the racist language used."

National Traveller group Pavee Point concurred with the letter's sentiments, saying the comments by Mr Hogan were "totally inappropriate".

Martin Collins, director with Pavee Point, said the use of such a term is "deeply offensive" to members of the Traveller community and he also called on Mr Hogan to acknowledge the remark was wrong.

"It is a very offensive term, and totally wrong for a minister to say it. If he wants to apologise, that is up to him, but I think it is right that he acknowledge what he said was wrong and that he refrain from saying it in the future," Mr Collins said.

Damien Walshe, of the Irish Traveller Movement, said he too found the remarks "very derogatory" and a "red flag" to Travellers.

He cited similar remarks made by a member of the judiciary and said all those in high-profile public roles must set a "good example" and using such terms falls short of that.

"It is incumbent on all public representatives, whether they be a politician, judge or whatever, never to use this word. While he may not have been using it directly in a Traveller context, everyone knows it is a derogatory comment for Travellers," Mr Walshe said.

"We must not allow it to be okay to make such harmful comments about the most marginalised in our society."

Earlier this month, Mr Hogan branded the Sunday Independent and another newspaper as "knackers" and threatened to "put manners" on us for publishing pictures of himself and his now former press secretary in Doha on Budget day.

Mr Hogan accused this newspaper of engaging in a "disgraceful game" and threatened, "We will put manners on you."

Mr Hogan was reacting to coverage of himself in recent months. He said he would refuse to deal with this paper, branding us "knackers" for publishing the picture. "You will get nothing from me. Knackers, for what you did," he said.

"You guys better get some manners or we'll put manners on you," he added.

This weekend, Mr Hogan's spokesman said he had no response to the calls for an apology.

Irish Independent

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