Tag Archives: irish traveller

Dale Farm Eviction On Hold

Dale Farm Eviction on Hold

Irish Traveller’s from Dale Farm returned to the High Court in London on Monday 24th September to hear Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart order another delay to Basildon Council’s planned eviction of 51 unauthorised plots at Dale Farm Traveller site in Essex.

Speaking before the hearing, Dale Farm resident Kathleen McCarthy said that the threat of eviction was particularly bad on the children: “When we left home this morning all the children were terrified that this would be the end. They are still going to the local school but when they go home at the end of the day they say goodbye to everyone in case they don’t come back the next day.

Dale Farm residents and supporters talking to the press outside the High Court

Inside the High Court the Judge, Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart, told the packed court-room that the case was very complicated and he was concerned because Basildon Council had missed out important details from their eviction schedule. He pointed out that some of the plots had buildings, fences and caravans that were not mentioned on the Council’s enforcement notices.
Because of these concerns Mr Justice Edwards-Smith adjourned the case and told Basildon to sort out their paperwork and work with the Travellers to come up with an eviction schedule before returning to the court next Monday.

In a statement to the press outside, Dale Farm resident Mr Patrick Egan said: “I think the Judge’s decision was very fair and understanding to both sides,”

Dale Farm residents outside High Court in London

Basildon Council Leader Tony Ball, who was also at the hearing, said: “Today was another day when the wheels of justice continue to grind slowly forward. It has been good day for the Council and our local residents.”

“Basildon’s senseless eviction plans have hit a quagmire”

Speaking after the court case a spokesperson from the Save Dale Farm Campaign said: “Basildon’s senseless eviction plans have hit a quagmire. Millions of pounds are lost daily keeping police, bailiffs and diggers on hold. Today the Travellers beseeched the Council to return to the negotiating table to find a solution that does not destroy their community.”

The Dale Farm Travellers, who are receiving free legal advice from supporters, are also launching another court case on Thursday to try to stop the eviction. This case is separate from the one that Mr Justice Edwards-Smith is presiding over and will be heard at the High Court again, but with a different judge. This case, called a Judicial Review, will examine whether Basildon Council have the right to break down the legally built fences and gates on the site to evict the unauthorized plots.

Ali Saunders, a supporter of the Dale Farm community, said “One of the things the judicial review on Thursday will examine is whether the whole eviction can go ahead. Because recent court victories have made it clear that a full site clearance cannot legally go ahead, the court has an obligation to consider the case. There are several cases we are working on, because the eviction is wrong on so many levels.”

By Mike Doherty


Irish Traveller prisoners trapped in “Kaka-esque’ cycle of recidivism because 60% cannot read or write

New report by the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain

Irish Traveller prisoners are unable to access prison rehabilitation courses because three in five cannot read or write claims a recent report released by the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain.

Irish Travellers (courtesy of Patrick - ITMB)

The report, Voices Unheard; Irish Travellers in prison, released on the 13th June, says that nearly half of the UK’s estimated 400-800 Irish Travellers in jail are young adults, compared with 10% amongst the wider prison population. This has raised concerns that a significant proportion of a whole generation of this marginalized ethnic minority may be at risk.

Researchers from the ICB also discovered widespread discrimination by both prison staff and other prison inmates towards Irish Traveller prisoners, including the widespread use of racist name-calling.

Irish Travellers campaign against racism

The report also highlights a discriminatory system which included a paper-based “Kafka-esque” bureaucracy that excluded illiterate Irish Traveller prisoners from prison complaints procedures, education courses – including basic literacy classes – and behavior management workshops. Irish Traveller prisoners were also effectively barred from parole procedures and early release schemes because prison authorities did not consider that Traveller sites where suitable addresses for rehabilitating prisoners. In addition to this, the report says, Irish Traveller prisoners found it difficult to access medical services in prison, and health and mental health problems were left untreated. This was happening to prisoners from a community that already suffers from poor health and early mortality, with half of Irish Traveller men dying before their 50th birthday, the report warned.

“The reason why so many are in prison in the first place is poor education”

Lord Avebury, a veteran campaigner for Gypsy and Traveller rights, welcomed the report. “The reason why so many are in prison in the first place is poor education.  If they can’t read or write how can they communicate with the authorities when they get out, let alone earn a living? No wonder so many get into trouble again,” he said.

The report also found that a younger generation of Irish Traveller men where increasingly unable to make a living as self-employed traders or builders because their poor education barred them from navigating the amount of paperwork involved. Having no legitimate way to make a living, the report said, meant that some young Irish Travellers were stealing just to feed and house their families. This, the report suggested, was exacerbated by the break-up of Irish Traveller communities due to the lack of legal sites and draconian laws that have made a nomadic way of life illegal in the UK.

Horse fair (courtesy of ITM)

“What else am I meant to do?”

These findings were backed up by a young Romany Gypsy man who was interviewed by The Partisan News. Although Romany Gypsies and Irish Traveller culture differs and the two ethnic minorities have a distinct history and language, the two communities do share similar problems of racism and discrimination, economic change and marginalization. Speaking under an assumed name to protect his identity, Jim, 24, from the East Midlands said: “I do the scrap, get caught, go inside, come out. I left school at 13 with no qualifications; I can barely read or write. No one is going to give a Gypsy with a criminal record a job. What else am I meant to do to make a living?”

“If we had settled sites, the crime rate would drop overnight”

Another problem that is common to both Gypsies and Irish Travellers is the lack of legal sites. The report quotes an Irish Traveller prisoner who says: “If we had sites, if we had settled places to be as a community the crime rate would drop overnight. But when you’ve got families split up, kids running wild, then you can’t supervise them.”

More sites are needed (courtesy of ITM)

The main recommendation that the report makes is that prison authorities should count and monitor ethnic Irish Traveller prisoners and that the National Offender Management Service records this information on their data base. “If they are not counted then they don’t count,” said Philomena Cullen, the Director of the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain. The other recommendations were for flexibility of service delivery so that education courses where available to those with a low education attainment, and the roll-out of mentoring schemes within prisons that are specifically targeted at Irish Traveller prisoners.

Traveller child and wagon

When contacted, a spokesman from the prison service said: “We are committed to fairness for all and take prompt action whenever discrimination is discovered. Teachers in prisons deal with all levels of literacy including those with no basic skills. Prisoners with poor literacy skills can still take accredited education courses. In some cases offenders may be referred to a literacy class before inclusion on a course.” The spokesman also said that “there is nothing in principle to prevent the release on home detention curfew of Irish Travellers,” although a “mobile home” presents “technical difficulties” for monitoring early release schemes to Traveller sites. However, the spokesman did recognise the lack of ethnic monitoring. “We are in the process of updating our system so it will include Gypsy or Irish Traveller as ethnic categories,” he said.

Key facts

At 140 – 200 per 100,000 Irish Travellers in prison compared to 148 in the wider population, there may be a slightly higher percentage of incarceration amongst Irish Travellers. But compared with the wider poorer population, it is about the same or slightly less.

By Mike Dherty

Pictures borrowed from Irish Traveller Movement.