Activists say Travellers face violence and threats all over the country

A Limerick family, who were due to move into a new home, have received threats that the house will be burnt down.
Activists say Travellers face violence and threats all over the country

Graffiti on the House at North Claughaun Road, Garryowen, Limerick City. Picture: Brendan Gleeson

The use of threats and violence to deter Travellers from accessing housing is not a recent issue, say activists.

It comes as a Limerick family, who were due to move into a new home, now face potential homelessness after receiving threats that the house will be burnt down.

The vile messages were written on the council-owned property in Garryowen.

'If I bury a child from a fire, I'd never forgive myself,' said a mother of five in the family due to move into the house. Picture: Brendan Gleeson
'If I bury a child from a fire, I'd never forgive myself,' said a mother of five in the family due to move into the house. Picture: Brendan Gleeson

Irish Traveller Movement director Bernard Joyce called for stronger hate crime legislation to be introduced to tackle these attacks.

“We all know that incidents like this are not isolated — incidents like this are happening across the country,” said Mr Joyce, adding that the majority do not get any media attention.

“We are not surprised to see this level of hate. So that’s why hate crime legislation needs to be introduced to set the precedent in terms of protecting people from these crimes,” he added.

Mr Joyce called on the community in Limerick to show their support for the family, and called on anyone with information to speak out. 

“If we don’t rise up and unify against racism, then it will continue to manifest itself," he said.

There are no bystanders, you can't just stand back and look and watch others being abused, targeted, and singled out.”

Rosemarie Maughan, a Traveller rights activist, said members of the community are far too often victims of hate crimes like this.

“We have seen these threats of 'we will burn you out' become a reality in many parts of our country," she said. 

"A home is meant to be your safe space, how can Traveller children feel safe under threats of being burnt alive?”

Pavee Point co-director Martin Collins described the incident as “thuggish, racist behaviour”. 

“Unfortunately, this is not new from a Traveller perspective — this is all too common,” said Mr Collins.

Martin Warde, who is a comedian and an outspoken member of the community, said the threat of violence is not as common as it once was, but the potential still remains. He gave examples that date as far back as the 1950s, where a female Traveller’s home in Galway was attacked after she was allocated a house in the city.

He gave more recent examples in other parts of the country where homes were allegedly damaged in order to prevent Traveller families from accessing them.

This is a hate crime, this is arson, and this is not a healthy sentiment to have towards any group of people,” he said.

The Limerick family who were targeted this month, and wish to stay anonymous, say they are afraid to take the house in case those responsible follow through on the threat.

A spokesperson from Limerick City and County Council said that the council “abhors any suggestion of racial abuse of any of its citizens and is investigating the issue in partnership with the gardaí”.

A Garda spokesperson confirmed that they are investigating an incident of criminal damage that occurred at a property on North Claughaun Rd, Garryowen, earlier this month.

“No arrests have been made, investigations are ongoing,” gardaí added.

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