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Attacks on Travellers

Finian McGrath (ind, Dublin NC) raised, as a topical debate, the burning of a Traveller family home in Donegal (Dail Eireann, Debates, 14th February 2013, 787-790).  It was an appalling and horrific attack, he said and these kind of Ku Klux Klan activities must be challenged, along with the silence of the house, political parties and the local politicians who stoked up the issue.  He criticized a local Fianna Fail councillor who argued that Travellers should live in communities away from settled people, which was disgraceful, while a Fine Gael councillor said that Travellers could be sent to Spike Island.  He urged the minister to take action against those stirring the issue.  Apartheid was wrong in the past and was wrong now.  Dessie Ellis (SF, Dublin NW) spoke of Ireland’s treatment of the Traveller community as its ‘great shame that it denies’, with Travellers regarded as acceptable targets for hatred, derision, slurs and discrimination.  This casual hatred was no different from racism and it infected our culture.  Last Sunday a bunch of cowards filled with hatred set out to burn to the ground a home allocated to a family with ten children, having failed to force Donegal county council to refuse to house them.  He commended the council for not bending to pressure.  But no actions had been taken against the anti-Traveller, racist comments of the two councillors.  There had been cases of judges using derogatory remarks as well.


Replying for the government, the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation John Perry told them that the shocking incident in question, which could have been fatal, was under investigation and if it transpired that this was an anti-Traveller attack, the Minister for Justice and Equality would condemn it without reservation.  The Gardai were committed to tackling racially-motivated crime and he cited the work of of the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office (GRIDO).


Finian McGrath pointed out that a further three houses belonging to Traveller families had been burned down and yet nobody had been charged for these horrendous crimes.  He asked the minister of state what action would his party take against councillors who stirred up emotions on these issues.  People stirred up emotions and then other misguided individuals committed acts of violence.  Dessie Ellis cited four incidents in which objects were thrown from cars at people walking home to a refugee centre.  Was there a way in which anti-hate laws should be strengthened?  He asked for a debate on Traveller issues in the Dail and Seanad and that during Traveller Pride Week, Travellers be invited to the Dail for the day.  He attacked the cut in Dublin City Council’s budget for Traveller accommodation maintenance from €1m to €50,000: how could the council be expected to carry out maintenance across the entire city on that amount?