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Out of site, Out of mind -Travellers in Ballymun

category dublin | rights, freedoms and repression | feature author Monday March 27, 2006 19:09author by Ninaauthor email dublinnina at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

Report from Travellers' Meeting in Ballymun

featured image
The Traveller man is saying "We are people just like you".

St. Margaret’s Park is a 30 bay permanent halting site sandwiched between 2 busy roads on the outskirts of Ballymun. There are currently 63 families living in a space originally designed to accommodate 30 families. There is no playground and no safe pedestrian access to and from the site. Families on the site have been living without electricity on and off for three past 5 months.

Travellers and workers, angry at the situation, called a meeting on Wed March the 22nd. Councillors and Dublin City Council (DCC) officials were invited to explain to a meeting on site how they proposed to resolve the situation. Earlier on in the day a group of Slovakians from the LEAP Project (Legal Education For All), along with members of the Irish Traveller Movement Accommodation Working Group visited the site.

There are a myriad of problems facing residents in St. Margaret’s in terms of the overall standard of accommodation, the most immediate one at present being the lack of electricity.

In February nine bays on the site were left without electricity for 10 days; a bay may be home to up to three families. This is nothing new. In fact since November 2005 the electricity has been on and off every other day for the majority of people living in St. Margaret’s.
In response Dublin City Council sends out an electrician to replace the fuses. Often the electrician has quite literally driven off down the road when the fuse has blown again, leaving another night of darkness and cold looming. On one particular occasion he made it quite obvious that he wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible before the electricity cut off again.

That 15 families were left without electricity for 10 days came about on foot of a directive issued by DCC in mid February, stating that the electricity supply would no longer be restored to any of the bays without electricity. The initial reason stated for this decision was that ‘we (DCC) are spending too much money on the electrician coming out all the time’. This was backed up with a brief but emphatic financial update regarding the cost of replacing fuses, not to mention the electrician’s fee.

When queried about the health and safety concerns, the reason for the decision, not to replace fuses, changed. Instead it very quickly became firmly grounded in none other than concern about the fire hazard. So much concern that as a ‘good-will gesture’ (following the tragedy in Clondalkin) two battery-operated smoke alarms were fitted in every bay. So much concern that somewhere in the region of 15 families were left without electricity for ten days during a particularly cold spell creating a situation whereby some families were forced to hook up to their neighbour’s supply.

DCC lay the blame entirely at the hands of the Travellers, the majority of whom they claim are ‘illegally tapping’ the electricity supply and not paying for their electricity. The fact remains that the halting site is massively overcrowded and as a result quite simply cannot cope with the demand put on the supply of electricity. This is borne out by the fact that the same problem arises every winter, as electricity consumption increases during the winter months. However, according to DCC there is ‘no overcrowding situation”, but lots of ‘illegals’.

The fact of the matter remains that St. Margaret’s Park is home to over 260 people, almost half of whom are under the age of twelve. The families on the site who are sharing bays with the legal tenants are all extended family members. There is nowhere else for these families to go. That this is the case is as a direct consequence of the failure of DCC to fulfil its responsibility of providing suitable and culturally appropriate accommodation for Traveller are ins as laid out in the Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAPs) which arose from the Traveller Accommodation Act, 1998

The overcrowding situation in St. Margaret’s is also a result of poor management on the part of DCC, who are fully aware of the problems on the site, but fail to take action.

The head of the Traveller Housing Section in DCC, Kieran Cunningham attended the meeting in St. Margaret’s, but failed to offer anything more than a vague reference to a future development plan for the site.

The day after the meeting took place residents were facing another cold night as they were informed by DCC that the electrician wouldn’t be able to come to the site until the following morning.

Report by Nina
Photos by sovietpop

Some were forced to spend 400 euros on generators but a 10 euro bottle of petrol only lasts 8 hours.
Some were forced to spend 400 euros on generators but a 10 euro bottle of petrol only lasts 8 hours.

There are 109 children under the age of 12 living on the site.
There are 109 children under the age of 12 living on the site.

Kieran Cunningham, Head of the Travellers Accomodation section of Dublin City Council.
Kieran Cunningham, Head of the Travellers Accomodation section of Dublin City Council.

Living without electricity causes enormous stress
Living without electricity causes enormous stress

author by mickpublication date Sun Mar 26, 2006 15:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Best wishes to the St Margarets travellers and thanks for the report Nina. They are spending billions on the so-called regeneration of Ballymun - how much of that is going to the travelling community ?

author by Joe Moore - Traveller and Settled Solidarity (Cork)publication date Sun Mar 26, 2006 20:06author email mapuche at eircom dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done to all concerned. Racism against Travellers in endemic throughout the State. All local authorities are guilty, both officials and the elected councillors from the right-wing parties. One way this can be defeated is by both Travellers and Settled people uniting to fight together. Links should also be made with other groups fighting racism. Until this evil is defeated no establishment politician should be given a platform by any anti-racist group.

author by Paul Bpublication date Mon Mar 27, 2006 20:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"They are spending billions on the so-called regeneration of Ballymun - how much of that is going to the travelling community?"

I had a very quick look at the website for Ballymun regeneration, complete with front page ad for Lisney real estate agents. I only had time for a quick look around the site and at the FAQ - funny enough, I didn't see any mention of the travelling community...

http://www.brl.ie

author by Eoinpublication date Mon Mar 27, 2006 23:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the report Nina! This is a quality Indymedia article! It reminds me of the missing Yugoslav Roma population. They were made "missing" during the wars in the 90s by all sides (including of course NATO bombing and western-trained KLA gangs). Likewise they continue to be "missing" from almost every time the corporate media recalls the expulsion and killings -- the ethnic cleansing -- in the former Yugoslavia.

author by Seánpublication date Tue Mar 28, 2006 00:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Although travellers are not the only people with them there, I think that having horses in housing estates or in fields, where it cannot be assured that they are being properly looked after, is a disgrace.

I am totally in favour of building thousands of more houses for travellers but that doesn't mean we can't critcise them as well.

author by tax payerpublication date Tue Mar 28, 2006 10:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Give it a break, they are putting illegal taps on the power supply and blowing out the fuses. Theft is theft. I pay my ESB whats so special that these people can not. Maybe if they paid their bills like I have to the ESB and DCC would be more helpful. You cant help people if all they do is hold meetings and moan. Clean the place up and make a go of it and watch people come to your aid. Sit and moan and it is just the same old woe is us. In the end you get sick of it and thats from somebody who has spent most of his adult life helping and supporting various grops.

author by sovietpoppublication date Tue Mar 28, 2006 13:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The travellers at the meeting said that they wanted their own individual meters so that each familly could be responsible for paying for their own electricity. Dublin Council representives at the meeting refused this request. It seems that DCC has one rule for members of its settled community, and another for travellers.

(I suspect that you work for DCC and so know this already)

author by Ciarapublication date Tue Mar 28, 2006 14:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors


With regard to people paying for electricity on the site, it was made quite clear at the meeting that Travellers will pay for an adequate service. Yes, people have to pay for services but not for a service that consistently fails as is what happens with the electricity on St. Margaret's site. This is not a payment issue. The problem is that the supply to the site is inadequate. Like many issues that affect Travellers, assuptions are made that it is all the Travellers fault, yet this is not the case. Far from moaning, they have stood up in a very organised way to demand basic human rights. Well done to all concerned.

author by antopublication date Wed Mar 29, 2006 17:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Documentary
Gypsy Wars

Mon 3 Apr at 23:20 on BBC Two

Depending on which paper you read, gypsies are either spongers and the scourge of society or a respectable community of people who have chosen a different way of life.

Filmed over eight months, Gypsy Wars offers a unique insight into the often violent confrontations between local residents and the travellers who set up camp in their 'back yard'.

Three films explore the lives of those who live on either side of the divide: travellers driven from town to town by the law, forced into huge illegal sites; and residents waging solitary campaigns defending their own 'human rights'.

Not for the faint-hearted, the series delivers stories of eviction, destruction, revolt and murder.

Gypsy Wars reveals the jagged relationship between people who see themselves on the verge of civil war.

Programme One
Dale Farm is the biggest Irish travellers' site in Europe. A self-contained world of concrete and caravans in the heart of the Essex countryside. Now the travellers face eviction - and the barricades are going up. As the deadline approaches, cameras follow the inside story of the embattled travellers and the local residents they've enraged.

Programme Two
Irish gypsies have descended on the picture postcard village of Cottenham. They've settled on the orchard owned by conservationist Joanna Gordon-Clark. Now she's determined to get it back - in the face of threats of violence and intimidation. In Cottenham, Middle England has begun the fight back against the traveller invasions.

Programme Three
In March, an Irish traveller was shot dead on a site in the heart of suburban Surrey. The killing brought to a head the clash of cultures between the settled and travelling communities. Out on the open road with the cousin of the murdered man, cameras tell the inside story of gypsy life - searching for work, setting up camp in parks, and dodging the police and the bailiffs

author by Kerry and Naomi O'Reillypublication date Wed Jun 28, 2006 03:15author address author phone 07985472713Report this post to the editors

We would like to say that we are thoroughly disgusted at the inhumane way that all travellers are traeted. This is a brilliant example of the prejudice shown toward them. What have they done to deserve this? Nearly every home in the UK and Republic of Ireland has continuous running electricity, it is now seen as a necessity. Depriving them of it is creul and ridiculous. At the end of the day, they are just going about their lives they way they are brought up to do. It is what's culturally right for them.
We have been on many occasions within close proximity to travellers, and find them lovely, caring people who are funny. Basically they are just normal people and don't deserve this treatment!!

author by traverlatorpublication date Wed Jun 28, 2006 10:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I wonder if the reason the power fuses keep blowing have anything to do with the fact that they are tapping the supply, somehow i think it does ehhh, be honest ffs, they obviously are not. Also just because someone is related to another--that gives them the right to live next to each other?? err no dont think so--if the site is overcrowded move some to another site, yeh id like free electricity,no rent,no council fees and to live next to all my relations but if i went to the local council and said that they would laugh at me--and ya know what, i couldnt blame em, and as far as meters go--if they are tapping the supply allready --what do you think would happen with the meters, they would be destroyed within a week, ya know if you start treating things with a little respect--you get it back---but it has to be earned,just like anything for any person in life,

author by Me07publication date Thu Apr 19, 2007 01:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The work done to provide for services by the actual travellers on site in Ballymun themselves is tremendous... it is the authorities who are really holding back better facilities for IRISH CITIZENS which is unacceptable in this day and age, don't even start to presume it is a situation of unwillingness to pay for services, those who are (nearly all) are prevented from doing so by planning permission laws which are pointless, defunct, and unless in such situations. Another issue is that the services provided on site are largely done so by the travellers and members of the travelling community themselves... as I said, it is the state who is holding back the proper development and social integration of the traveling people, not themselves...

author by Me07publication date Thu Apr 19, 2007 01:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No I don't have any direct links to the travelling community, but I am an MD of a media group which knows alot of the background to such schemes... Don't prejudge, if you really want to change things, listen to the people, and help them in a fair, unbias and just way.

author by Voltaire - Societypublication date Wed Jun 13, 2007 11:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Questions

Why are Travellers allowed to avail of social welfare and the health care service when they don't pay taxes? Is this very fair?

Why are critics of the Traveller way of life branded as "Racists", are travellers not caucasian or have they invented their own race?
What do travellers contribute to society?

author by travellers in ballymun - travellers commiteepublication date Sat Feb 19, 2011 13:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

dont no what you mean

author by traveller - travellers commiteepublication date Sat Feb 19, 2011 13:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

hi i am a 17 year old traveler boy from st margarets halting site and i just want to say we suffer with out electric in the site and kids cant have shower because the electric is off and the hot water is always of and people say why are we on the labor well we cant get jobs because we are travelers and people think they cant trust travelers well i think travelers should be treated the same way as settle people every traveler in the halting site should be housed so they can look after there own electric and there will be less complaint's in to the social
so i just want to tank you for reading this

from a traveler boy in st margarets halting site

author by opus diablos - the regressive hypocrite partypublication date Sat Feb 19, 2011 16:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm sure some of them are. Who knows whats in any of our backgrounds for sure?
Many of the Irish Travellers, if you look at the names, are from the general stock of the population and carry the names even of what would be considered the old Gaelic chieftains. Some of the Roma history is traced back to India over centuries of migration. I'd say the reason they want ethnic recognition could be because they are treated as alien by our authorities and by the settled culture and discriminated against over generations, but particularly in the last half century as their sources of economic survival have been overtaken by mechanisation and cheap durable household goods. And as stated the settled population no longer offers employment in what is a very conservative and genealogically fixated society.

I've lived in South Africa under apartheid and I've seen(and travelled with)Australian Aborigines and how they were treated by the racial superiority-complex of that Anglophone culture, which seems to identify with some spurious Caucasian/Aryan racist delusion they do not share the same gene bank as ALL of the one and actually only HUMAN race.

In short the racial difference seem to have been projected ONTO the traveller population by the dominant Anglo/Irish culture as a sort of a rollover of the old Penal law racial discrimination imposed by the invading easterners who took over the land and displaced the previous landholding culture which was less inflexible. I suspect this is a resentment of the current owners of the dormant rights of these evicted people, just as the Zionist settlers in Palestine have to dehumanise the previous owners and deny their rights.

I'm sure someone will point out where I lost the plot. If I had it back, sure I could plant a spud.

Oh, and what does the Voltaire Society contribute to society?They never lent me a fiver yet.

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