Una Mullally: NIMBYism is the national sport of south Dublin

Carrickmines blockade did not take place in a vacuum, but in our discriminating society

Not-In-My-Back-Yard: The scene at Rockville Drive, off Glanamuck Road, Carrickmines at the site of the proposed emergency halting site. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Not-In-My-Back-Yard: The scene at Rockville Drive, off Glanamuck Road, Carrickmines at the site of the proposed emergency halting site. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The tragedy at Carrickmines which saw ten people die in a fire at a Traveller halting site is almost too much to bear. In the aftermath, the sinking feeling was compounded by residents in the area blockading attempts to provide emergency accommodation for Travellers now without homes.

There is a profound viciousness that lurks beneath the surface in Ireland when it comes to our fellow man and woman and child whom we deem to be other or lesser than. The engine of Irish society runs on hypocrisy. Isn’t it well for us that we can extend tolerance by degrees to other minorities whom we deem fit members of society, yet allow Travellers to occupy a fenced-off place in our national psyche, immune from the progress and tolerance we give to others.

Local councils rarely do themselves any favours in these situations, and there does appear to be inadequate consultation on their part, but it’s the cloud of discrimination against Travellers that hovers over this sad affair. “They don’t live the same as we do,” a resident told Carl O’Brien writing in The Irish Times last week, “It’s not a slant on them. It’s just a fact.”

Indeed, saying someone doesn’t live how you do is not a slant. But using that difference as a basis to stop “them” living in any decent way at all, very much is. The casual and acute racism perpetrated against Travellers is widespread. The issues between Travellers and “everyone else” have never been properly addressed. Let’s face it, there’s no votes in it.

If south Dublin was a sovereign state, NIMBYism would be the national sport. Actual plans for halting sites, as opposed to temporary ones, languish in planning limbo across south Dublin. What councillor wants to deal with the endless objection from residents who are oh-so-happy for Travellers to be accommodated, just somewhere else? And where is that somewhere else? We don’t get to choose our neighbours – although I’m sure some of us would love to – because that’s not how providing decent accommodation and facilities for everyone living in our society no matter how marginalised they are works. You’ll hear the very same objections about accommodation for asylum seekers, homeless centres and methadone clinics.

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During the 2014 local elections, fear- mongering over the development of land to accommodate Travellers in parts of south Dublin reared its ugly head. Josepha Madigan of Fine Gael distributed a local election leaflet in 2014 campaigning against traveller accommodation. Raging against the proposed site at Mount Anville (heaven forbid!) she wrote in her leaflet: “I was surprised to see one sitting Labour councillor quoted in the media as saying ‘not everything is about the money’. In an age [of] budgetary cuts and severe pressure on services, I feel such comments are reflective of an attitude best consigned to the past.” Are we to accept that everything is about the money, and any other perspective should be “consigned to the past”?

Conflict

“But they do this, that and the other,” the person who doesn’t want a halting site in their neighbourhood will say. Maybe “they” do. But so do plenty of other people. As far as I know, most people in this country engaged in violence, anti-social behaviour, crime, illegal dumping, dubious child-rearing practices, drug-dealing, joyriding, drunkenness, assaults and robberies aren’t Travellers. Perhaps, if there is a perception that crime and dubious social behaviours are disproportionate within the Travelling community, we should ask why that is, and see what can be done, if that is indeed the case and not just the perception.

Innocent people

Tara GilbertSylvia Connors

I’m sure some residents think they have legitimate concerns. I’m sure everyone just wants to live in peace. But the blockade did not occur in a vacuum, but in a society that discriminates against Travellers at every juncture. So imagine what it’s like to live in a country that presses pause on empathy so frequently, even when your children have died.

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