“I want to say here, as unambiguously and as clearly as I can, that discrimination and prejudice against Travellers and Roma is racism and it must be named as racism and tackled as racism.”
Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland
Seven months after the Carrickmines tragedy which claimed 10 young lives on a poorly maintained temporary halting site, the Irish Government stands accused in Europe of continued neglect and failure when it comes to accommodation for Travellers.
In a sickening display on the seventh anniversary of the firebomb attack on a Romani family home, a handful of neo-Nazis assembled in the Czech town of Vítkov to voice support for the arsonists. The attack injured three people and nearly killed toddler Natálka, who sustained third and fourth-degree burns over more than 80% of her body. The first speaker at the rally on the 18th of April issued a call to raise money for “the boys who are in jail”. Other speakers interspersed their abuse of Roma and refugees as vermin and scum with claims that ‘the boys’ received disproportionately severe sentences for the attack; incidentally, a sentiment shared by former President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus.
Much controversy followed the recent appearance on TV of John Connors, the quiet-spoken star of the hit crime drama Love/Hate and advocate for Traveller rights on Ireland’s Late Late Show. Connors gave a moving account of the impact of racism upon his community, but what was controversial and sparked media debate was the hectoring and shrill reaction of the show’s host, Ryan Tubridy to hearing a few home truths about the state of hate in Ireland.
Five years on, the EU Framework has hit a critical “mid-life crisis.” The National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) have yet to deliver in terms of concrete change to the lives of millions of Europe’s Romani citizens; the implementation gap is more pronounced than ever; discrimination and segregation remain pervasive and human rights abuses against Roma are all too frequent.
The deaths of two small Romani children on January 1 and January 3 in Košice’s Luník IX and the Mašličkovo settlement in Slovakia went largely unremarked and unreported in the European media. One child froze to death, the other died in a fire. This last weekend has just brought shocking news of three more child fatalities in another fire in a shack in Slovakia.