Travelling voter: ‘I’ve heard she’s the only one fighting to get us’

People Before Profit candidate Bríd Smith gains backing at Ballyfermot halting site

Kathleen Hanafin, a Traveller woman in her 50s, will vote for the first time on Friday. A resident of Labre Park housing site in Ballyfermot, Dublin she says she registered to vote when officials from Dublin City Council's franchise section visited the site in recent weeks.

“Yes I’ll vote. I never have before. No-one came to give us the cards to vote before. So I’ll vote for this lady,” she says, gesturing to the People Before Profit candidate in the area, Bríd Smith. “I’ve heard a lot about this lady. I’ve heard she’s the only one fighting to get us.”

Smith, a candidate in the Dublin South Central constituency, is canvassing the site. Shown around Labre Park - the oldest purpose-built Traveller housing site in the State - she sees overcrowding, a lack of running water and heating in some caravans, a lack of play facilities for the numerous children on site, broken, potholed ground and electric wires trailing everywhere.

Smith asks Hanafin what her concerns are. “I live here with my 14-year-old son. It’s so cold in the van, it’s like trying to heat a tin can. We have a gas heater, but we have no water. We have water outside but it’s so cold to go out there. I have medical conditions and it’s hard.


‘It’s very stressful’

“It’s hard when you can’t wash yourself properly, when you are afraid to take your clothes off because it’s too cold,” she says, becoming upset. “It’s very stressful.”

Smith, currently a councillor in Dublin City, tells her she is continuing to fight to get the council to accept an offer from voluntary housing organisation, Clúid, to redevelop the site. “But the council its dragging its heels,” says Smith.

In another van, Brigid O’Brien (26), tells how she, her husband and two children Shania (3) and Martin (2), share one bed and have to go to her ill mother’s house to wash as they have no water.

She too has just registered and will vote for the first time on Friday, intending to support “whoever can get us a house”. She has tried to get private rented accommodation but has not been able, she says.

The Traveller vote-registration drive in Ballyfermot has been replicated across the State.

Minceirs Whiden, Ireland's only all-Traveller forum, has run voter registration workshops and invited franchise officers to meet Traveller groups to explain the electoral system and the benefits of voting.