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You think that’s cannibalism?

David is too easily impressed. Over here in Ireland, we were doing public sector cannibalism when public sector cannibalism wasn’t cool.

In 1992, the Irish Labour party broke with tradition by entering into a coalition government with Fianna Fail. The Labour party had increased its share of the vote after a campaign of vigorous opposition to Fianna Fail. To placate its voters, most of whom had expected that they were kicking FF out of government, and because they were feeling cocky, Labour demanded a whole raft of rhetorical leftiness in the government program. One of these was to rename the crusty old “right wing” Department of Justice as the brand new, “compassionate” Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. A consequence of this was the establishment of Citizen Traveller, charged with:

implementing an integrated communications initiative to promote the visibility and participation of Travellers within Irish society, to nurture the development of Traveller pride and self confidence, and to give Travellers a sense of community identity that could be expressed internally and externally.

This translates as: a Traveller-advocacy group working out of a government department, their motto: “Promoting travellers as an ethnic minority”. So when one government department – the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform – enacted legislation to enable the police to evict caravans which were trespassing on private property, a branch of the same government department – Citizen Traveller – took out expensive billboard and newspaper advertisements to protest this “racist and unworkable law”.

We are unfortunate in that, despite his classical liberal background, our current Justice minister Michael McDowell has developed a Blunkett-like authoritarianism but he is to be congratulated for phasing “Equality” out of his department and ultimately shutting down Citizen Traveller.

16 comments to You think that’s cannibalism?

  • This would be funnier were hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ punts not wasted in the process.

    But it’s still damned funny.

  • Ironchef

    Travellers = homeless?

  • Paul M Johnson

    No Traveller == gypsy (approximately). And Travellers aren’t limited to Ireland as it is my understanding there is also a Traveller population in the UK.

  • Travellers = homeless?

    Not quite, The “travelling community” (as opposed to the “settled community”) prefer the nomadic life. It is generally a traveller’s choice to be “home-less” (Why not “caravan-ful”?)

    Anti-racist and equality campaigners are very keen to define travellers as an ethnic minority. It is probably true that it is a kind of ethnic community – insular, with a unique culture of violent feuds, poor education, health and life expectancy which prizes entrepreneurialism and tax avoidance as complementing welfare dependency – but the crucial problem overlooked by such campaigners is that objections to travellers from “the settled community” are almost entirely because of actions carried out by individual travellers – such as camping illegally on a Gaelic football grounds for months, littering and destroying the playing pitch – and not because of who travellers are.

  • D Anghelone

    Traveller = Tinker (slur)

    Yoordjeele’s soonee-in munya, [soobya] [laakeen]; mishlee too this wraank.

    Snatch was an interesting movie.

  • Eamon Brennan

    So what are you saying Frank?

    Is there no prejudice against the Knackers at all then then?

    Do they deserve the shit they used to get from all sides?

    Eamon Brennan

  • Eamon,

    My point is not that there is no prejudice at all but that the source of most of the disputes between travellers and “settled” is not something as pat and simple as “racism”.

    As for whether “they” deserve any opprobrium, it depends on who the “they” are. If a person who happens to be a traveller is subject to verbal or physical abuse for no reason then obviously he doesn’t deserve it. If two traveller families trash a town centre when their wedding “celebrations” erupt into violence then those hacking lumps off each other with slash-hooks and hitting bystanders deserve all the opprobrium they receive. Likewise for a traveller encampment which destroys a village football pitch.

  • Eamon Brennan

    I would hazard, at a guess Frank, that you have zero evidence to back up the assertion:

    objections to travellers from “the settled community” are almost entirely because of actions carried out by individual travellers

    Eamon Brennan

  • Eamon,

    I might equally hazard a guess that a bland sweeping statement such as your:

    the shit they used to get from all sides

    is similarly unsupported by evidence. Much of what groups such as the late unlamented Citizen Traveller protested as “racism” was simply objections to actions. It is hardly “racist” to complain about trespassing and destruction of property.

  • Eamon Brennan


    I used to report for a local newspaper in Tallaght.

    I saw nasty behaviour on both sides and I am certainly not carrying a torch for the travelling community.

    However, I was well aware of the fact that local councils were involved in deliberately restricting access to traditional roadside camping sites thus forcing the travellers to use other, less suitable areas (including pitches and parks).

    I was also witness on several occasions to the odious vigilantism organised by some of the scummier elements of the “settled community”. Even to the point of being threatened myself if I reported what was going on.

    Your original assertion was quite simply not true.


  • What is a “traditional roadside camping site”?

    I assume you mean a green area alongside a road or housing estate on which travellers have “traditionally” parked but not necessarily with permission.

    If people wish to travel around the country they should make arrangements with farmers to park on their land. There is no justification for parking anywhere without permission, whether it is traditional or not.

    If anything your anecdote hardly negates my point: Even in the case of the “scummiest” of those vigilantes, the objection, whether this is reasonable or prejudiced, is to the likely consequences of the traveller encampment and not travellers per se. Put simply, people who object to travellers do so because of what they do (or what they expect them to do) and not who they are.

  • Eamon Brennan


    That’s just pure prejudice in action, and frankly I am sorry to see it come from you. Firstly, there is nothing anecdotal about what I wrote. All of it came from my professsion as it was at the time.

    Secondly, traditional camping sites only came about with the tacit permission of the community. As far as I am concerned, that is the only permission necessary.

    Finally, you are happy to excuse the behaviour of people based on what they think might occur.



  • Charles Copeland

    The real problem as regards prejudice against Travellers in Ireland is that there is not enough of it. Every voter in Ireland should send a letter to his TD (Member of Parliament) asking him or her to answer the following question:

    “A chara, are you willing to vote in favour of repeal of the legislation discriminating in favour or the Travelling community and in favour of subjecting Travellers to the normal laws of the land? If not, you will not get my vote.”

    The Travelling community is a dysgenic breeding population which is unpopular in Ireland not because Travellers are ‘foreigners’ but because they are ‘more like the Irish than the Irish themselves’ — when we are at our worst, that is: lots of drink, lots of children, lots of street fighting.

    My first memory of Travellers dates back to the glorious summer of 1956, when a horde of tinkers (as they were then known) posted their horses and carts outside our backyard in the vicinity of Galway docks and headed off for ‘refreshments’ at the local pubs. The horses immediately urinated en masse, the urine flowing through our yard and into our drain, and the stink remained until the monsoon season began three days later. So when I hear the word ‘Traveller’, I reach for my nose. I associate them with the pungent smell of urine – and that’s ‘postjudice’, not ‘prejudice’. But no doubt everyone has their own equivalent to Proust’s ‘petite madelaine’.

    My father’s modest proposal was to spray aerosol contraceptives over Travellers’ camping sites to prevent a population explosion. I think this would be a bit over the top, but one could always consider (a) setting up a charity foundation that would offer their womenfolk generous sterilization incentives and (b) eliminating child benefits for the entire low-life subpopulation, including both Travellers and the moronic underclass city scumbags who vote Sinn Fein.

    True paleolibertarianism – the way forward.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Apologies for the incoherence of that last entry. I shouldn’t post after spending the entire evening in the pub.


  • Eamon,

    You are a model of coherence, even if inebriated, certainly when compared to other comment-ers.

    Unlike Charles, I bear no particular animus to travellers and I obviously don’t accept his crude slur yet I have to concur that that travellers be subject to the same laws as everybody else. Further, I don’t believe the government should be in the business of supporting any kind of lifestyle including the travelling lifestyle.

    I have no problem with individuals choosing a nomadic lifestyle – as I’m not in favour of social engineering, I really don’t care whether the nomadic life compares less favourably to the settled life from a utilitarian point of view – what I do have a problem with is the notion that there is some implicit “right” to park where one pleases. It is simply not good enough to say that the “community” hitherto gave its tacit support to “traditional camping sites”. Presumably if such consent is theirs to give, it is also theirs to withold.

    In reality it is nothing to do with the community: land is either privately owned or publicly owned. I’d prefer that the latter was as minimal as possible, but while it is publicly owned it is the government or local council’s responsibility to maintain. Thus, if a “traditional camping site” is regularly despoiled and taxpayers must pay to restore it, the council is perfectly within its rights to prevent unauthorised parking. If this happens, they are no more “forcing” travellers to park on village greens or foorball pitches than a full car-park “forces” me to park on your lawn. If a traveller chooses to stay a while in a town, it is up to him to make arrangements to park his caravan.

    Lastly, I don’t seek to excuse people’s behaviour and I’m no panglossian, there are racist people in Ireland just as everywhere. The type of person who is racist or anti-semitic is pretty likely to be also bigoted towards travellers. The problem is that it is simplistic to explain away all the wider criticism of travellers – and this is what the advocacy groups tend to do – as if it was simply down to “racism”. One indication that the level of opposition to travellers is based on behaviour or presumed behaviour rather than “race” or ethnicity would be the minimal animus expressed towards “settled” travellers.

  • It’s nice that someone here is kind enough to remind me all the crap I do not miss from Ireland.