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A bird's eye view of the vineyard
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City Council and Garda abuse of Travellers in Cork City.
rights, freedoms and repression |
Wednesday June 11, 2008 01:41 by Joan - Traveller and Settled Solidarity
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/