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City Council and Garda abuse of Travellers in Cork City.

category cork | rights, freedoms and repression | feature author Wednesday June 11, 2008 01:41author by Joan - Traveller and Settled Solidarity Report this post to the editors

featured image
End of the road in Cork

A Traveller couple in their late 50s, and their family, are being consistently and mercilessly hounded around the northside of Cork by gardai at the request of Cork City Council.

Both Agens and Martin Faulkner are on medication for depression and anxiety, while also suffering from heart and respiratory problems. Their 15-year old daughter is attending school locally and began her Junior Certificate exams last week.

In the last seven months, the family of Agens and Martin Faulkner have lived at more than 8 different locations on the side of the road in the north of Cork city. Apart from the carpark on the Glen Rd., where they were for 3 months, and the Kilmore Rd in Knocknaheeny, where they spent 5 or 6 weeks, they have never been allowed to stay anywhere for more than a few days.


When the gardai come to move them on, no consideration is given to the state of their health, which is extremely poor, or to the fact that their 15-year old daughter is attending school in the area and began her Junior Cert. exams last week. The gardai moved the family twice this past weekend even though they knew that Nora had an exam on Monday and will not finish her exams until next Friday.

The gardai say that they are just acting on complaints from the city council. A council official told Agens 3 weeks ago that they have a house for her, but it will take 2 weeks to carry out repairs. A week later, he said it would take another 2 weeks. He refused to tell her the location of the house. When she asked the gardai to hold off moving the family on, as she was waiting on a house, they refused to believe her when she couldn't tell them its location.

If Cork City Council has a suitable house for this family, why can they not reveal its location, as they would to any other potential council tenant, and why are they requesting the gardai to move them on? These kinds of games are typical of both the C.C.C. and the gardai in their dealings with Travellers in Cork.

A few examples of garda abuse of this family include: (1) moving them on at 11 o'clock at night - this happened last Saturday (7.6.08) and marks a new low for the gardai. Martin Faulkner is recovering from a stroke brought on by the stress of the family's situation and he is in no fit state to be hitching up a trailer at that hour of the night and go looking for another campsite; (2) moving the family on on a Sunday, normally a day when people relax; (3) confiscation of their generators so that they have no way of cooking or of lighting their trailers. This happened about 6 weeks ago. Gardai from Gurranabraher station removed the family's generators, telling them that they could have them back if they circled their trailers around the garda station to show they were on the move, the purpose being to humiliate them as well as move them on; (4) removal of the keys from Martin's van by a garda from Gurranabraher. He told Martin he could have them back after he moved! The keys were returned 6 hours later after an official complaint was made; (5) a female garda questioned Nora about what school she was attending, which class she was in, who is her teacher etc.. and then refused to believe her saying that she wasn't attending school at all. She ungraciously admitted she was wrong when she was shown Nora's school books and timetable; (6) moved the family on twice in the two days prior to one of Nora's Junior Cert. exams; (7) numerous threats to impound their trailers, vans and generators.

Amongst the many abuses by Cork City Council of the Faulkner family include: (1) putting them into unsuitable accommodation, which was injurious to their health. For 6 years, the family lived in a 3-storey council house in the Blackpool area of Cork. During this time, Agens' heart and respiratory conditions worsened due to constantly having to climb the stairs between the kitchen and living room, which were on separate floors. The house was also very damp. All appeals for a transfer were ignored and eventually they had no option but to leave.; (2) all the family's attempts to contact the council are ignored. They ring up, leave messages and no one gets back to them. When I rang the council, at the family's request, asking that the social worker for Travellers contact the family, none of my calls were returned and the family was not contacted. The current social worker has never visited the family on the roadside and no one from the council came near them when Martin suffered a stroke last December; (3) the council has made a number of offers of completly unsuitable accommodation in the last few months. They have been told that stairs are a major problem, yet they continue to offer 2-storey houses. They have been told that the family cannot cope with being boxed in to a terraced house, but that is ignored too. The council make these unsuitable offers in order to tell the media that they have tried, but the reality is that they have not tried at all. There is no consideration of the needs of people with a nomadic tradition, which is an integral part of their identity, and the lonliness and despair that can accompany settling down. Destruction of identity is acknowledged as a significant factor in the sharp rise in suicides amongst young Traveller men in the last few years. Agens' and Martin's own nephew, who was also their adopted son, took his own life just 2 years ago.

The family would like a bay in a halting site, or a small yard with essential services provided. This is not much to ask and they would pay rent just like any other council tenant.

This family has suffered enough. Nora has had her education jeopardised enough. Out of despair, they have agreed to have all these details of their lives discussed in public. The abuse they have had to suffer at the hands of Cork City Council and the gardai is an outrage.


*photo taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/romeo66/2300937540/sizes/m/

author by Marthapublication date Wed Jun 11, 2008 00:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks to the Faulkner family for making this public, it takes a lot of strenghth and courage to talk openly about the way a society, and a state which is your own treats your culture, your identity and your people.
After reading the article I can't stop thinking of how they will spend the night, it is possible that the police will be bored and maybe they want to have another laugh and knock at the caravan door to ask them to move right now!, the children will be afraid and they will be crying in their beds...This story is not a new one in Travellers life, I have seen this day after day. And then one day a young teenager decides to kill him/herself, and then everybody asks why?. Why?!!!
Anyway, dear friend from Cork Travellers much solidarity for you and your group for supporting the Faulkner family and others but you and I know that something more radical has to happen for Travellers to have their dignity back because thats what's is going on in this country and nobody wants to look at this because it is too dirty to look at. Ireland has stolen Travellers dignity.
The way racism is being exercise in Ireland against Travellers is very similar to that in south Africa, or any indigenous people who have been oppresed by a entire country, the state and its citizens, the intelectual purpose behind racism and discrimination is always the same: extermination of that group. Are we going to allow this?, why are we so active or in solidarity with other causes and we can not see what is happening in the Traveller site near us?, When are we going to say enough is enough for Travellers?....
Why not now in Cork?(if the family wants support for a protest)

Justice, Respect and Dignity for Travellers!!!

author by Mel Lloyd - Hibernian Order Of Druidspublication date Wed Jun 11, 2008 06:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Unfortunately this again highlights the similar manner by which the Roma in Italy are being treated.

Throughout Europe people who have a nomadic life style are being treated badly.

The MEP's AYLWARD, RYAN & SINNOTT are well aware of the situation and had this to say :-
"The European Commission has also vehemently condemned the actions against the Roma and has asked all Member States to guarantee the security of this community. In addressing the Parliament the Commissioner observed that "the EU and Member States must do their utmost to improve the social inclusion of the Roma and also reiterated that Community law guarantees that Romanian citizens enjoy the same freedoms as those of other countries of the Union, and that the Commission will ensure that their rights are respected".

The European Parliament will continue to call on and put pressure on all Member States to enforce and protect the rights of the Roma community."

This message has obviously not got through to Cork or even the Garda, our only hope is to keep the issue in the forefront of the minds of those with power.

author by mel Lloyd - Hibernian Order Of Druidspublication date Wed Jun 11, 2008 10:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Further to my earlier mail: contact has been made with Kathy Sinnott who has offerred her assistance.

We are still a long way from a final resolution but at least wheels are in motion.

author by C. Dallpublication date Wed Jun 11, 2008 18:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ireland has little moral right to speak of injustices elsewhere while this flagrant bigotry and discrimination against Travellers continues to take place.

Have the people and elected officials of Cork no shame?

author by Mary Kellypublication date Wed Jun 11, 2008 18:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

for that report and especially for the support you are giving the family in need.

author by Donpublication date Wed Jun 11, 2008 20:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If I have a choice, I'm going to stand by my ethnic grouping and class.

They chose to be travelers, we didnt chose for them to be here.

author by Joan - Traveller and Settled Solidaritypublication date Wed Jun 11, 2008 21:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Justice for Travellers does not have to mean losses for the settled community. Try reaching beyond your prejudices, you'll find life more rewarding and meaningful.

author by Davepublication date Wed Jun 11, 2008 21:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I feel so ashamed to be an Irish citizen, when I see this abuse of my neighbours. How much longer will Travellers have to endure this?
It is bad enough that the council staff dodge the issue while they continue to draw salaries inflated by bench marking. I wish it was possible to isolate the officials who are responsible, and make them answerable for their part in this appaling abuse of human rights.
Where are Amnesty International? They have known about this for years.
To have some members of the Garda apparently adding to the abuse is sickening.
In the past, our Irish decency stirred something in us that caused us to act in solidarity with people being evicted by wealthy landlords. We need another social movement to rise to take collective action to stop this.
Joan, your action in writing so powerfully is hugely important in keeping this issue on the agenda for people who care enough to hope for better days. I believe that you and other witnesses to this shame will have your day if there is any justice.

author by dissidenttpublication date Thu Jun 12, 2008 16:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

http://youtube.com/watch?v=eRspJVpj4LY

author by Elinorpublication date Thu Jun 12, 2008 23:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done Joan for the big heartedness and tenacity to keep acting in solidarity with travellers in Cork year after year, a thankless and dare I say 'uncool' cause even within the activist community. Well done the Faulkners for the courage to go public while in such a vulnerable situation.

To turn a blind eye to the abuse and mistreatment of our fellow humans damages our own humanity and inevitably hurts us all.

I cant help wondering how many Indymedia readers have passed over this posting assuming (unconsiously ?) that it does not concern them.

author by Joan & Ray - Traveller & Settled Solidarity, WSM Cork (pers. cap.)publication date Fri Jun 13, 2008 13:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When it comes to urban landscaping, it appears that Cork City Council takes its cue from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and this comes too with an attitude uncomfortably close to apartheid South Africa. Why is the city council placing hundreds of bollards at great expense to taxpayers around the northside of Cork, instead of providing Traveller-appropriate accommodation, as they are legally obliged to do? Are these bollards being bought from money that was earmarked for Traveller accomodation?
Cork City Council have created a situation where there's a chronic insufficiency of accomodation for Travellers in the city. Simultaneously, the council, the Gardai and other statutory agencies harass and persecute unaccomodated Travellers with every legal device in their armoury (and then some). Meanwhile, the council deface large swathes of the city's working-class areas with these corrupt concrete monstrosities, and they have the cheek to blame the Travellers for this state of affairs.
Traveller & Settled Solidarity call for the council to abandon this policy of 'bollardisation' and to provide for the real accomodation needs of Travellers.

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author by Joan & Ray - TASS, WSM Cork (pers. cap.)publication date Fri Jun 13, 2008 14:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry about inadvertantly multiply posting this! A misunderstanding of what had been intended for this story re posting. Full story at link below. Apologies to indymedia for the guideline infraction.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/87961
author by objectorpublication date Fri Jun 13, 2008 14:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Almost Belfast inthe 70 to 90's just two items missing Razor Wire and the British Army...

Bloody brutal ought to be shown on the tourist map.

author by jonnympublication date Fri Jun 13, 2008 15:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Reading the article didn't really move me to fight injustice against travellers, especially with comments about harassment like "(2) moving the family on on a Sunday, normally a day when people relax;".

Am I the only person who feels a little bit apathetic to the plight of people who refuse to accept accommodation in houses that are over one story or are terraced? The majority of peple in Ireland today are living beyond there means, meaning a lot of young people are unable to even afford a home, but yet we should feel sorry that a family feel "boxed in" in their free terraced home?

If I start a Young & Broke Alliance and ask people to help Young & Broke Irish people will you guys move me out of my "boxed in" pokey flat and get me a 2 story terraced house?

J

author by Comrade Opublication date Fri Jun 13, 2008 15:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I've lived abroad for some years now and it's only really been during this time that I have realized what a blind spot even self-declared "progressives" have about the oppression of Travellers. I'm ashamed to say that it's an issue that I didn't pay much, if any, attention to until recently. As a previous commenter suggested, it's not the "coolest" issue. It is, though, perhaps our deepest national disgrace. It is truly astonishing that such pervasive prejudice and injustice can pass without notice, without condemnation, without the least trace of shame. It's past time for a serious engagement of all progressives with this issue. There is some great work being done already, but I would love to see a genuine mass movement taking it on.

author by kevinpublication date Fri Jun 13, 2008 16:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Briliant article and knowing that that their are some people working with, helping, advocating and fighting for Travellers rights and entitlements. Also photos and article on bollardisation, government spend on roads (bypasses, new motorways etc.) is approx., at least, 1 million euro per day yet there is and has been no consideration for Irelands nomadic roadside dwelling people or the provision of appropriate serviced sites or accomodation for them.

author by Marthapublication date Fri Jun 13, 2008 17:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am not from this country but I have seen the same story happening to gipsies where I come from. In Ireland everything started in the 60s when the Irish government decided that "Itinerants" (thats how the government started to name Travellers publicly), should not be travelling freely anymore, that they would have to be settle like the rest of the country and they started a settleling travellers down policy till today. That policy was an imposition to Travellers who were from another ethnic group with very different culture and identity, a policy that was very well planned and that has been very succesfull, the policy had 2 main objectives:
* to convince the irish people that Travellers where bad people, dirty and uneducated almost like animals.
And I tell you, the first time that I read in a newspaper in Ireland about Travellers was 10 years ago when I first arrived here. And the article was talking about this family who were dirty, on the side of the road causing problems to the neighbouring community (settle).
So that means that this is been going on in the general media for about 50 years now!! There was no mention of who they were or why they were having difficulties, it was an statement about Travellers in general. Thats how all Travellers are.
*To make sure that Travellers asimilate settle culture and ways of living, and that I can tell you that is still going on today. I have met with a few council officials who talk openly about this.
This policy has been succesful relatively.
I remember as a little girl in a small town in Spain in the 70s, this policy of settleling gipsies started. My grandparents lived right beside one of those sites where the council was planning to build lots of small little flats for gipsies. I was small then but I remember very well the opposition to this and when the flats started to be ocupied the problems started. The families brought everything they had, I remember a little girl with a small lamb in her arms running around afraid of people looking at her. They brought chickens, donkeys, a horse, all the animals they had. So they had to live in small flats with the animals.
Everything I heard about them was bad, everybody was disgusted and I felt very confused, but thankfully my grandfather was there to answer all my questions, when I asked him why the people were so angry about the gipsies he told me: Because they are afraid too!, they don't know, they are confused with what the government is saying about them and fear is the best weapon a country can use to control its people. Then I asked him why are the gispsies afraid? And then he said: Imagine a little mouse who is used to live whith his/her family with their own ways of doing things and then put this little mouse living in a tree inside of a bird's nest. Do you think this is going to work?
I said : it will never work grandad, never!, and I remember the sadness in our faces looking at each other.
My grandfather was a fighter and like him there are people who says enough is enough and tries to stop the big fear monster, but it is still a minority who do this and that's why is so hard for some people ot empathise.

author by Joan Casey - Traveller and Settled Solidarity (TASS)publication date Sat Jun 14, 2008 12:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Many thanks from the Faulkner family and from TASS for all the supportive comments.

author by Joan Casey - Traveller and Settled Solidarity (TASS)publication date Mon Jun 16, 2008 21:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Cork City Council offered a house to the Faulkner family last Friday, but it is the very same house that was offered to the family a few months ago and which they rejected due to its unsuitability. This is contemptible behaviour.

This is the house that the council tried to force the Faulkners into by means of garda harrassment.

Last week, a council official described this house as very suitable for the Faulkners' needs and that if they rejected it there would be no sympathy left for them.

If this house has been empty all this time, it means that NO ONE wants it.

Why does CCC think that a Traveller family should accept a house that no one else wants?

author by jonnympublication date Wed Jun 18, 2008 15:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I need to clarify my 'difficultly to empathise'

I have nothing against travellers, despite some bad experiences (incl being broken into twice by travellers, while living near a halting site at the Darndale roundabout). I am old enough to understand that they are just like everyone else and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, as do you and I.

My problem is with the wording of this article. I mean you have to admit that "(2) moving the family on on a Sunday, normally a day when people relax;" is pushing it a bit... The article seems to me to be trying to skew the article to suggest that the council is a big evil force bullying the family to move into a... God forbid... A TERRACED HOUSE! oh my God! what an injustice!!!

Give me a break! if I was offered low rent housing anywhere no matter how pokey I'd be a happy camper. I work for minimum wage, pay a ridiculous amount of rent each month to live in a pokey flat and would be happy to be offered a house.

I'm not saying these people don't deserve better than they are being offered, just don't start the violins and expect me to cry a tear because the Gardai asked them to move on a Sunday... (what's the full story, where had they settled?)

Jon

author by eugenepublication date Thu Jun 19, 2008 13:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the updates Joan.
Very disappointing that the house Cork City Council were "fixing up" and whose location was such a secret turned out to be the same place the council knew this family must reject.

Agens and Martin, in very poor health and upset by years of hounding just want a bay somewhere in Cork where they can park up and live. Failing that, a house where they can manage.

The council has hundreds of thousands to spend on huge concrete bollards and harassing roadside travelllers.

author by Joan Casey - Traveller and Settled Solidarity (TASS)publication date Thu Jun 19, 2008 17:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you take being moved on on a Sunday within the context of the whole story outlined, i.e. the family were being moved on every few days, they had been moved the previous evening at 11pm, the father of the family had recently suffered a stroke, the daughter had an exam the next day etc.. any reasonable person can see the problem with that. Maybe you should review your idea that you have nothing against Travellers in the light of your fixing on what seemed like the least abusive action of the gardai, to base your critique of the above article.

As for the teracced house, it was also outlined above how difficult, and sometimes with tragic results, it is for some Travellers to move into houses, particularly houses in terraces. How would you feel if you were a settled person in a Traveller-dominated society that required you to live in a trailer in a halting site?

author by Joan Casey - Traveller and Settled Solidarity (TASS)publication date Sat Jun 21, 2008 13:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Also, when Travellers are moved on at a weekend, they cannot contact anyone from the city council in order to negotiate, nor can they contact anyone from the Traveller CDPs, who might make representations on their behalf, as these tend to only operate during normal working hours, i.e. 9 -5 Mon. - Fri.

TASS tries to respond to calls for assistance outside these hours, but it is a small organisation and cannot always be there. The gardai are well aware of these facts which is why they operate as they do. If a person is arrested on criminal charges, they are entitled to legal representation. If you are a Traveller and you are being moved on at the weekend, you very rarely have someone to turn to for help and advice.

It is as plain as day - this is a human rights issue and Travellers in Ireland are systematically denied their rights on a daily basis.

author by Pears.publication date Sat Jun 21, 2008 14:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thank you for informing us with your article.
If the accounts of the Garda actions are correct then this family are suffering.
To be able to emphatise we must be willing to honestly share or recall suffering within ourselves.
Blaming the Garda,Government, Travellers,Messengers is unconstructive.
I want to ask,Why do a group of uniformed men and women feel the need to harrass a timid family living on the roadside?
Why cant a preson or family travel and live as they see fit?
what can someone aware of this do to support the family?
Having lived outside and walked parts of this island without a permenant home.It is my experience that anyone can suffer the isolation, predjudice and unwanting to knowness that our friends in Cork seem to. I have not grown up rooted in the traveller culture, though. I have also known kindness,hospitality from folk who maybe could remember feeling alone, misunderstood,a little different.
Maybe the answer to my questions is ,go ask them.
Pears.

author by Tired of This...publication date Mon Jun 23, 2008 19:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You need look no further than Rathkeale, Co. Limerick to see what travellers do when they have a "proper house" to live in. They now own a sustantial portion of the town and the place is an absolute eyesore to drive through. The vast majority of houses have the windows boarded up and the families are living in caravans in the gardens.
When will people accept that everyone is not unnecessarily prejudiced against these people - they develop prejudices due to their experience of them.

An example of where travellers cause prejudices was at the Parkway in Limerick in 2004. Parked on the roundabout on the main Dublin-Limerick road, they thought it was quite alright to defecate in the local residents gardens and litter the side of the street with their rubbish. When questioned on why they had parked in this particular location, the response was that the stabling facilities in the local halting site were not sufficient for their horses. I'm pretty sure the average Joe Settled doesn't get stabling facilities provided for free. Neither does he soil the gardens of total strangers but that's just one of the many differences between Joe Settled and the average, poor, oppressed, traveller.

A more recent example of the filth caused by travellers, again in Limerick, is on the new link road in Castletroy, between the Tipperary road and the Dublin road. There are currently approximately 30 caravans on a privately owned piece of land. They have been there less than two weeks and already there are 4 crashed and burned-out cars littered around the field. I went about taking a few pictures today to post here. Before I could take any a van had pulled up next to me, with the driver (a traveller) shouting profanities at me, warning me to leave before he took the camera. While he was still doing this, rocks started raining down on the side of the road where I was standing, all thrown by travellers (young and old) in the campsite. The van disappeared into the encampment all of a sudden as a garda car was passing. I stopped the garda to inform him of what was happening, to be told that there is very little he can do. When I asked how they seem to be above the law he just shrugged his shoulders and advised that I contact the community garda to see if he can help. On walking away from the area, with the garda back in his car, another few stones landed on the road around me - presumably to remind me to keep walking.
This same group of travellers have spent the last two weeks since they moved into the area racing horses up and down a public road, while measuring the top speed in their vans. They have been sniffing about the local housing estates trying car doors and looking in house windows. In the field, they have been racing cars around a makeshift track, wrecking four cars in the process which they have since burned out and abandoned in the field. I assume, as with everything else to do with this poor oppressed group, that the taxpayers money will have to pay to clean up the filth that they leave behind when they are finally moved. By taxpayers I mean the many people in this country who work for a living - not expecting the government to 'provide' for them. Some of these poor taxpayers even need to work on Sundays when all of the travellers are obviously resting (I'm not so sure what they do from Monday to Saturday but they rest on Sunday because doing nothing all week can really take it out of you).

It really is time for people to stop crying for the 'poor' traveller...

author by Pauline Reillypublication date Mon Oct 06, 2008 20:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Having read the content of the above story , I once again feel appauled at the sheer injustice and discrimination that is directed at so many members of the Travelling community. I cant however say that I am shocked ,as I have seen how Travellers are treated as second class citizens through my own personal experiences . To subject anyone to this victimisation is an outrage, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality etc.... If there was as much time and effort exerted into the real issues in our society as there is in victimising people we as a country might not have half of the problems that are coming to the fore on a continuis basis. The key issue here is that too much energy is being chanelled in the wrong direction instead of focusing on what really needs to be addressed. As for those who loate the Travelling community and express hatred twords them I feel a deep sense of pity for in order to feel such hatred for another human being they must truley hate themselves.

author by Willie stokespublication date Wed Jul 23, 2014 20:00author email info at williestokes dot comauthor address www.williestokes.comauthor phone Report this post to the editors

This is a link to YouTube there are more video poems on my website williestokes.com

this is a video poem about ireland as a mother has seriously abused her travellering children

Related Link: http://youtu.be/r-bmh0zUin0
author by Rational Ecologistpublication date Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is no doubt that Travellers have faced massive amounts of prejudice and discrimination in this country; that is beyond arguement, and much remains to be done to address this issue.
However, some Travellers bear a huge responsibilty for their behaviour, a lot of which is just plainly unacceptable and serves to work against their own community.
There are a lot of people, like myself, who have a great deal of sympathy for Travellers but who are constantly frustrated by a sizeable minority in that community, mainly men, whose actions do act to undermine, control and indeed defy the progress(I use the term very advisedly) of some Travellers, mainly female.
Let's be realistic and balanced here.
However; it's not the Travellers who threaten the very intergrity of our planet. That's a well-heeled elite.

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