"Racist" reporting on travellers attacked

 

ELEMENTS of the national media are subjecting travellers to outright "racist attacks", using the excuse that they are involved in rural crime, it was claimed at the annual general meeting of the Irish Traveller Movement in Galway at the weekend.

"As has been stated on a number of occasions, travellers, like everyone else, have been horrified by these crimes, yet the impression has been given in recent reporting that all travellers are criminal by birth", said the movement's cochairman, Mr David Joyce. "The movement totally condemns this form of reporting which indicates the high level of racism and prejudice towards travellers that exists in elements of the local and national media."

Mr Joyce said that the movement was also concerned that the gardai could feed this "prejudice" if they publicly named and pursued travellers. Very few convictions of travellers came from Garda investigations. "Racist reporting" would cause residents' groups to feel justified in preventing travellers from being properly accommodated. They might also feel justified in attacking and burning travellers out of their homes.

Mr Joyce said that recent reporting, particularly in the Sunday Independent, was the culmination of a series of derogatory and insulting articles on travellers which had appeared in the national press in the past year. In many local papers the reporting on travellers bordered on incitement.

He said that one article by Mary Ellen Synon in the Sunday Independent had been particularly offensive. "A number of individuals have made complaints under the Incitement to Hatred Act about this article and the Irish Traveller Movement will be offering whatever support we can to these people."

Mr Joyce called on the National Union of Journalists to "implement its recommendations on this type of reporting". The movement would urge groups "who may be in the fortunate position of advertising for employees" not to use the Sunday Independent for this purpose.

He emphasised that the main concern of more than 1,100 traveller families continued to be the lack of appropriate accommodation. The conditions on many unserviced sites were having severe effects on the health of people living there.

The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Mr Higgins, deplored the inadequate accommodation for travellers, the fact that infant and adult mortality rates among them were twice those of the settled community, and the denial of education to traveller children, particularly at second and third level.

The Minister pledged that the report by the Task Force on the Travelling Community would not be allowed to gather dust and said that a Government inter departmental committee was already meeting to decide on the implementation of its recommendations.