32 recent complaints made to Council on remarks made about Travellers

Donegal Good Relations Officer Karin White.

Donegal Good Relations Officer Karin White.

32 reports have been received by Donegal County Council’s Racist and Sectarian Incident Reporting Scheme since January 17th regarding a series of negative public remarks made recently about Travellers.

Dr Karin White, Donegal Good Relations Officer says the remarks “which tar all Travellers with one brush”, have been reported to the Scheme for inciting hatred against a minority group by members of the majority.

Dr. White said she and the Council are committed to acting upon all reports made to the Scheme, which is an initiative funded by the EU PEACE III Programme.

“As the person who set up the Donegal Racist and Sectarian Incident Reporting Scheme throughout Donegal on behalf of Donegal County Council and thanks to funding by the EU PEACE III Programe, I promise to follow up on every report received by the Scheme,” Dr. White said.

“I will do this on behalf of Donegal County Council, which through its PEACE III Action Plan 2011-2013 has committed ‘to challenge racism and sectarianism and the structures which support them,’ and to a vision of Donegal as ‘a county where racism and sectarianism no longer exist and where all feel equally valued and confident that they belong.’ In addition, the national ‘Code of Conduct for Councillors’ commits councillors ‘to promote equality and avoid bias.’

“I can 100 percent say that these commitments include Travellers,” Dr. White said. “Donegal County Council, the Donegal County Development Board, and the Donegal Peace Partnership have done a wonderful job delivering on their peace-building commitments in the past, and I am confident that the Council will take all possible actions to follow through on its commitments in this case.

“On a personal note, I come from Germany where there is a history of racism against persons from minority ethnic groups, including nomadic groups like the Roma, Jewish people, and others,” Dr. White said. “I was brought up learning the importance of speaking up and nipping racism in the bud. I am therefore delighted that people have come forward to make reports to the scheme.

“Also speaking personally, I have known and worked with many people from the Traveller community for a long time now and, like any other community, there are people amongst the Traveller community who are fabulous and others who are not so fabulous. This is in the same proportion as in any other community.

“I am very upset that when something negative happens in the Traveller community it is often highlighted by politicians and the media, but when something positive happens it is largely ignored. Travellers are human beings, whose children going to school are now subject to being told by other children that ‘you should be out on Spike Island.’ I think it’s amazing and laudable that they are as peaceful as they are in such an environment of exclusion and negativity.

“People should think about how it sounds when they replace the word ‘Travellers’ or ‘these people’ with ‘Jews’ or ‘Protestants’ or ‘black people’. In this day and age it still seems acceptable in Ireland to say things about Travellers that are not acceptable to say about other minority ethnic groups. This has to stop. It has gone on too long and too far, and it has to stop.”

Dr. White said the Donegal Racist and Sectarian Incident Reporting Scheme has operated successfully since being launched during a “Don’t Swallow That” campaign by Donegal County Council last year. The Scheme is an initiative included in the Donegal PEACE III Action Plan of actions to be taken with the nearly 5 million euros provided to the county by the EU PEACE III Programme for 2011-2013.

“We have followed up and mediated over 30 reports of incidents that have been received, with most being solved in an amiable, constructive way,” Dr. White said. “We hope that people will continue to come forward, not just reporting incidents that happened to themselves but also ones that they have witnessed. Through practicing active citizenship the people of Donegal, in partnership with Donegal County Council, will succeed in wiping out racism and sectarianism.”

Incidents can be reported to the Donegal Racist and Sectarian Incident Scheme, including anonymously, by emailing Dr. White at karin.white@donegalcoco.ie or by ringing her on (087) 936 5695.


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