FF not to censure councillor over remarks on travellers

 

FIANNA Fail will not discipline its councillor who said travellers should be "run out" of Waterford. "His views are totally at odds with the party," a spokesman said. "But he is entitled to voice his private opinions."

Councillor Paddy Kenneally told a meeting of Waterford County Council it was time to get shotguns "at the ready" and run traveller families out of Waterford. He compared the marching season in Northern Ireland with "the movement season" in the Republic, with traveller caravans moving from county to county "terrifying people wherever they encroach".

Councillor Kenneally told Tuesday's meeting: "The sooner the shotguns are at the ready and these travelling people are put out of the county the better. They are not our people." He said yesterday he had received congratulations in Waterford for his remarks. "People in Dungarvan don't want to have to go through another summer like last year with the robbing. Rural people could not risk leaving their homes unattended," said Councillor Kenneally.

A Waterford Fianna Fail TD, Mr Martin Cullen, said the councillor's remarks were "intolerable and unacceptable". The travellers have a legitimate place in society, Mr Cullen added, though he acknowledged there were sometimes problems with integration.

Fianna Fail's spokesman on travellers, Mr Chris Flood TD said his party "completely disowned" the councillor's statements. They ran contrary to Fianna Fail policy.

"We strongly support the full and rapid implementation of the 1995 task force report on travellers which says each local authority should provide accommodation to meet the needs of that community in their area," Mr Flood added.

Mr John O'Connell of Pavee Point, an umbrella group which speaks for travellers, said he found Councillor Kenneally's remarks sad and pathetic: "But I am not shocked or surprised by them. These views are pretty widespread." Mr O'Connell added it was unfortunate Councillor Kenneally, by his comparison with Northern Ireland, had learned only a lesson of intolerance and racism rather than one of inclusiveness.

Mr Austin Hynn, a Fianna Fail councillor in Waterford, said he would not have expressed his views on travellers in such extreme terms as Councillor Kenneally. But his remarks were understandable in the light of the problems at a halting site in Dungarvan, he said.

Mr Billy Kyne, a Labour Party councillor, said as a socialist he was committed to the rights of travellers. Rights also brought responsibilities, Mr Kyne added, and the vandalism at the Dungarvan halting site was unacceptable.

Mr Raymond Maloney, town clerk of Dungarvan, said there had been problems on the halting site with horses, dogs and litter. A liaison group has been established between the local authority, the Garda and other interested parties to discuss the problems with the travellers, he said.