Well over two decades ago I wrote a pamphlet for the Celtic League called ‘Human Rights on the Celtic Fringe’ it documented rights abuse in all the Celtic countries and in one section highlighted the plight of the ‘Irish Traveller’ community.
Since that time the Celtic League has periodically raised the case of the treatment of the Irish Traveller community in the UK and Ireland and also the Roma in Europe with both governments in the UK and Ireland and the EU.
A case recently in Scotland epitomises the prejudice that still exists towards Travellers.
A group set up camp near Ellon Academy in Northern Scotland although as they said themselves they would remain on the site for a “couple of days” and that they just wanted “peace” that was not to be.
A report in the Aberdeen Press and Journal (link below) says:
“It’s used by all sorts of members of the community, but they’ve had to lock the gates to the main car park. A church group was forced to park in the staff park for their meeting.
“I understand that the travelling community need to be accommodated somewhere but why oh why do they choose to set up an unauthorised encampment in the most inappropriate areas which will cause disruption to the settled community?”
In fact that wasn’t the case the gates referred to as having to be locked had been closed before the Travellers pitched up after damage to the School roof in the spring storm.
Also mention is made about the ‘mess’ Travellers leave although to reference this a three year old incident was cited:
“In 2013, a group of travellers left a serious mess at the nearby site of Balmacassie, including piles of rubbish, empty caravans and cages of ferrets.”
However Police Scotland had said of this pitch:
“They are off the road on a grass area, they have not had to overcome any security to access the site they are on.
“They do appear a well organised group and all vehicles are brand new and things do look immaculate.”
The Travellers therefore wanting to pitch for a few days ‘peacefully’ and on what appeared to be a well maintained site according to Police were seen as a threat. Is it any wonder that prejudice still exists when reports of this nature appear?
Often reporting of Traveller interaction is critical to the perception the public have of them in this regard a report by Amnesty Scotland (link below) was disturbing because it found that although in Scotland Travellers only account for less than 0.5% of the population they attract a disproportionate amount of media report. Almost 50% of these reports gave a negative slant to the issue raised and most disturbingly in the vast majority of instances involvement in the compilation of the story did not involve the Scottish Gypsy Traveller community.
Amnesty Scotland’s finding we would wager would also be replicated if similar studies were extended to England and Wales and also Ireland.
The Traveller community is not the problem. It is perception, disproportionate media attention and ‘good old fashioned prejudice’ that is!
Image: Traveller pitch near Aberdeen
Issued by: The Manx branch of the Celtic League
TEL: 01624 877918 or 07624 491609
THE CELTIC LEAGUE
The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries including our own Mannin branch. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues
The link for the main web pages is below: