Travellers 'wreck homes', says councillor

Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 00:00

A Fianna Fáil councillor has been criticised for saying that Travellers should be housed away from settled communities and that they “wreck homes”.

Cllr Sean McEniff, a member of Donegal County Council, told local radio station Ocean FM in Donegal that “there should be an isolated community of them some place – and give them houses and keep them all together”.

“You wouldn’t want it beside you nor I wouldn’t want it beside me,” he told the station. Mr McEniff said he was “speaking facts” and was not being racist or bigoted. Mr McEniff was on the radio to discuss Donegal County Council’s plan to purchase a five-bedroom house to provide accommodation for a Traveller family in Ballyshannon at a cost of over €230,000.

Donegal Travellers Project said it was “deeply shocked, saddened and outraged” by Mr McEniff’s comments and has demanded a public apology from the councillor.

Hughie Friel, a representative of the project and a member of the Traveller community, said, “Cllr McEniff is a public representative, elected by the people and possibly by some Travellers as well, and who you would think would not be using defamatory and insulting comments to a whole community.

“His comments about this particular family have the potential to destroy their lives in the locality as they go about their business or accessing services, schools, jobs or shops.”

Mr Friel called on Mr McEniff to apologise to the Traveller community and the family concerned.

Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, who lives in Co Donegal, last night branded Mr McEniff’s comments utterly disgraceful and called for an apology.

He also demanded that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin distance himself from the comments and outline clearly what disciplinary action Fianna Fáil would take against the councillor.

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said: “Sean McEniff was expressing a personal opinion. Fianna Fáil is committed to equality and has done more than any other political party to advance the cause of Travellers’ rights over the last decade.” When asked if Fianna Fáil would discipline Mr McEniff for his comments, the spokesman said they would be making “no further comment on this”.