Police abuse of Travellers in Ireland

05 September 1999

According to the Irish bi-monthly magazine Hot Press, at least eighty officers of the Garda (the Irish police), five members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), the Public Order Unit in full riot gear and a supporting police helicopter raided Traveller caravan sites shortly after 5:00 AM on May 27, 1999 at two adjacent sites, Cruiserath and Lady's Wells near Blanchardstown. Officers of the ERU reportedly shouted at people to get out of their caravans and pointed guns at children. Four men were arrested and some guns were discovered in a nearby field. However, in addition to the illegal weapons, the police confiscated two cars, televisions, video players, and some generators. They demanded that the Travellers produce receipts before returning them. As of July 21, the four men were out on bail and no charges had been brought against them. The Hot Press also reported that raids had occurred at many halting sites in Dublin in the weeks prior to the July 21 article. These sites included Ringsend, Inchicore, Grand Canal Harbour, Burton Hall and others in the area around Dublin including Shankill/Stepaside, Tallaght and Blanchardstown/Finglas/Mulhuddart (See also Roma Rights, Number 2, 1999 for other incidents of police abuse of Travellers in Ireland). One incident involves an officer entering a caravan that held a one-year-old baby recovering from a bone marrow transplant although even community workers had not been allowed in for fear the baby could get an infection. The raids have reportedly come in response to a rise in violence among Travellers and the publicity of several shootings.

Hot Press also reported that in the past few years, Irish police have been employing private firms to facilitate the eviction of Travellers. These firms are not subject to the same stringent guidelines as the police. In June it was reported that a Traveller family with six children illegally moved onto a caravan site in Shankill in order to be able to have access to the modern amenities for their young baby. They were served with twenty-four hour notice and at the end of that time their caravan was forklifted out of the site and dumped approximately two kilometres away. It was subsequently burned with all personal effects inside.

A recent report by the Irish non-governmental organization, Southside Travellers Action Group on Traveller accommodation reveals the abysmal conditions that many Travellers face. The report shows that in the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown area 49% of Travellers have no water supply of their own, 25% have no toilet access, and 32% have no rubbish collection. The report also showed that since 1994, there has been a 69% increase in the number of Travellers living on the side of the road. Mr Chris Flood, Irish Minister of State for Sport, Recreation and Tourism told the Hot Press that there is a recognized need for three thousand units of accommodation, and although the resources are available there has been no action.

(ERRC, Hot Press, Southside Travellers Action Group)


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