Coalition TDs voted down the opposition proposal last night, instead backing their own amendment, during a debate which heard claims Fine Gael Cork East TD Tom Barry was making comments “bordering on racist” about the under-privileged group.
Speaking at the end of a two-day Dáil debate last night, junior minister Damien English said all parties understand the nature of last month’s tragedy in Carrickmines which saw 10 men, women and children of the Travelling community burn to death.
The Fine Gael TD, who was speaking after Labour’s Equality Minister Aodhan Ó Ríordáin on Tuesday night commended Sinn Féin for raising the issues, said “the point is well made” in the opposition party’s motion that action is needed.
However, while supporting the need to address the “many issues facing the Traveller community”, Mr English said Government would still vote against it as work is already taking place to put in legislative reforms to address the difficulties.
While stressing Government does not disagree with “the spirit of the motion”, he said it may be better discussed between the Oireachtas justice committee and Traveller stakeholders to tease out any ongoing issues.
The comments came as a number of government TDs faced opposition claims of “cherry picking” whose rights they are supporting after outlining their concern for Travellers while also recognising the fears of the settled community over what further integration might bring.
While Fine Gael TD Dan Neville asked “what kind of bloody message” is the media sending out by broadcasting programmes like The Town Travellers Took Over, his party colleague Tom Barry said claims of “racism” are “stifling discussion”.
The Cork East TD controversially said “some people are terrified” about further integration and that others are “afraid to speak” about their concerns, adding that the term racism “should not be pulled out if someone disagrees”.
The comments were attacked by Cork North Central TD Jonathan O Brien who criticised Mr Barry for also raising anti-social behaviour issues, while Kerry North West TD Martin Ferris said his claims are “bordering on racist”.