As many Carrickmines residents continue to oppose temporary accommodation for survivors of a recent fire, the spotlight is once again on the relationship between the settled and travelling community in Ireland.
The fire at the South Dublin halting site, which resulted in the death of 10 people – including five children – initially united a nation in mourning at such a tragedy. The aftermath, however, has been tainted by a continued stand-off between Carrickmines residents and members of the travelling community who survived the incident.
The source of confrontation lies at the local council’s willingness to provide a temporary halting site to the families who survived the fire. The councils plans to locate the halting site in the Carrickmines area has been met with disapproval by local residents. The local residents discontent stems from the fact the council did not inform them of the plans, and the belief that a quiet street is not a suitable place for a halting site.
More fundamental to the friction, however, is the concern among local residents of potentially anti-social behavior by the travelling community. Residents have argued that prior to the tragic fire, anti-social behavior and random criminality were common at the halting site. One women described a number of unsavory incidents in the area, such as stolen cars and the littering of Tv’s on the road. To quote one resident from the area: ‘They don’t live the same way we do.’
This wariness from the general public towards the travelling community has been reflected throughout the years. A 2007-2008 survey found that three-quarters of people were hesitant about purchasing a house next to a member of the travelling community. Furthermore, a 2010 study showed that one in five Irish people would deny citizenship to a member of the travelling community.
While many of the settled community have pointed to instances of anti-social behavior by the travelling community to justify such beliefs, there have been cases of discrimination and prejudice towards the travelling community. Notable among these was a 2013 district court’s decision to compensate a traveller couple after they were refused service at their daughters wedding. Furthermore, local media were recently criticised for their coverage of a Dublin criminal gang who were convicted for their role in a kidnapping. While only 3 out of the 7 men convicted were members of the travelling community, certain media outlets referred to them as a ‘traveller mob’.
As the funerals for the victims of the fire take place this week, progress on accommodation for the survivors continues to stagnate. If there is a time for honest dialogue between the settled and travelling community in Ireland, it is now.