CHILDREN BEGGING

 

Sir, - On a bitterly cold day last week I saw two small children begging on O'Connell Bridge. They sat on the pavement and were not particularly warmly dressed. Many passers by were appalled and stopped but most were in a hurry elsewhere and had to content themselves with putting something into the polystyrene cup held out in one frozen little hand.

At the risk of sounding reactionary I must point out that the parents of these children are entitled to the full social welfare benefits allowed by the State. From personal experience I know that these pavements will not give anyone a luxurious lifestyle and great care is needed for them to provide even the necessities of life but, and in this instance it is a very important "but", there is no need for anyone to send small children out to beg.

If these children belonged to settled families I believe that their parents would rightly be charged with neglect or even cruelty to their children. But they don't. They are travellers' children and there is some unwritten agreement somewhere that travellers' children can be kept from school and be put out from dawn to dusk, on their own, to beg on the streets - even though these parents are entitled to the same financial assistance as settled parents.

For far too long, people, myself included, have been intimidated by fear of being labelled bigoted, from criticising the treatment some travellers mete out to their children. Well this has got to stop. Cruelty to children is cruelty to children whatever the socio economic group to which the parents belong. As a community we have for decades treated travellers as Untermenschen (to use a term favoured by the late unlamented Adolf Hitler). We don't exactly herd them into gas chambers but we have drained some of them of their humanity to the point where they treat their children in the same way. Yours, etc.

Upper Fairview Avenue,

Marino, Dublin 3.