Traveller groups warn of crisis
Traveller groups warn of crisis

Deterioratinmg relations between Ireland’s gypsy-like Travellers and the settled community have led to a growing mood of despair among Travellers.

A group of Traveller organisations have said relations are “worse than ever and could reach a crisis”, and warned that reconciliation between the two could become unreachable.

Martin Collins, assistant director of the Pavee Point, was one of the speakers at a press conference in Dublin yesterday, urging Government to do more “than just introduce draconian anti-Traveller legislation”.

Mr Collins warned that there was “a fundamental clash between nomadic and settled” ways of life, a refusal to accept or accommodate nomadism and blatant prejudice and racism inherent in attitudes and some policy.

Media reporting of recent events, such as large summer encampments, were exacerbating problems, he said.

Rather than look at why Travellers were camping illegally and in such large numbers, reports focused on “anti-social” behaviour, he said.

He pointed out that here were legal transient sites in just two counties - Kerry and Donegal - despite the fact each local authority had been mandated by central Government to provide transient accommodation.

Mr Collins said the legislation had helped create the phenomenon of Travellers moving together in large numbers.

They used to travel in small groups but the legislation had “forced them to become more strategic”. He said Travellers knew it was more difficult to evict them in large numbers.

While acknowledging there was anti-social behaviour among some Travellers, media reporting had largely been “unbalanced and out of context”.

The Housing Miscellaneous Act, 2002, which empowers gardai to evict illegally camped Travellers was being used to evict individual Traveller families from their homes, and was a “blatant attack on Travellers’ nomadic identity”.

Yesterday’s initiative was supported by the National Traveller Women’s Forum and the Parish of the Travelling People.

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