Socialist Worker has received this powerful statement from Brigid Quilligan, Director of the Irish Traveller Movement.
The Irish state and consecutive governments since the formation of the state have failed Travellers. Our state knows we are subjected to racism. They know our lives are seriously negatively impacted by the opposition we face at every level to live the same quality of life as any other Irish citizen.
Our state makes us justify and prove our ethnicity. We constantly have to validate our very existence. For 50 years we have worked with our state to improve the quality of our lives. The foundation of that has always been recognition that we are Travellers, we have our own way of life, our own language, our own history.
The state sees us a problem, they see us as failed settled people and respond accordingly. For 25 years we have sat at the tables of power, yet never held any power. We are powerful people but the structures set up ‘to facilitate’ consultation and dialogue between Travellers and the state will never empower us.
We sit on committees such as the Local Traveller Consultative Committee and the National Traveller Consultative Committee, both toothless, because while Travellers bring up the issues of dangerous accommodation, and lack of delivery of accommodation, we are stonewalled by local councillors. They are there with one agenda: to use their position to block development of Traveller accommodation.
In the aftermath of the tragedy in Glenamuck, we struggle as a community to come to terms with the needless loss of life. We do not yet know for sure what caused the fire. What we know is that those people were failed by the state – failed by racists and those willing to represent the views of racists.
Why when Dun Laoghaire Rathdown sent back unspent money allocated to Traveller accommodation, and did not seek any funding this year, did these families have to live in such cramped, overcrowded conditions? Racism.
Politicians like Josepha Madigan, who lobbied against the development of Traveller accommodation are opportunists. They are grasping to raise their profile and build a career on issues they hope will win votes. The nature of Irish society and the deep rooted anti Travellerism is the issue which needs to be addressed.
To do this we must first be recognised as an ethnic group. Our state must protect us. But like any rights we have secured, we have to fight for that. In doing that we as a community have to mobilise.
We have to honestly ask ourselves if we are colluding in our own oppression by sitting at tables of power where even if we make ourselves heard, decisions are made over our head, without us. I,for one. am having a hard look at my own engagement.
Ten lives are lost. There are sites all over Ireland in worse condition; they are all accidents waiting to happen. We knew this before; we advocated, we shouted, we screamed, we strategised, we collected data, we supported a collective complaint to Europe but we still couldn’t create the change we needed.
Ten lives are lost. We are devastated, we are angry and we know we have been failed. Travellers are united in our grief and we will be united in our response.
Socialist Worker’s full report on the Carrickmines tragedy is on page 3.