A Fianna Fáil TD was accused of stonewalling when asked by TV presenter Vincent Browne if Bundoran councillor Sean McEniff should be dismissed from Fianna Fáil.
On the same show a spokesperson for the Donegal Travellers project, Hugh Friel, said he saw no reason why Cllr McEniff would not be dismissed while Sinn Féin TD Padraig MacLochlainn told the Tonight with Vincent Browne show that the burning of a house in Ballyshannon intended for a Traveller family was akin to what had happened in Alabama at the height of the Civil Rights protests.
The second half of the ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne’ show dealt with the burning on Monday morning of a house in Ballyshannon which had been bought to house a Traveller family. The panel included Hugh Friel, Donegal Traveller’s Project and Padraig MacLochlainn, TD, from Sinn Féin, and Deputy Dara Calleary, representing Fianna Fáil. The show’s host said they were unable to get a representative from Fine Gael on the programme.
Deputy Calleary said “there is no sense in creating a martyr about this, his comments were wrong,” when asked by Mr Browne if Cllr Sean McEniff should be dismissed from the party for comments where he said Travellers should be housed in isolation.
Asked repeatedly by Mr Browne if it was okay for Cllr Sean McEniff to remain a member of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Calleary declined to answer the question.
Asked “is it appropriate on radio for someone advocating an Apartheid policy against Travellers that such a person remains a member of Fianna Fáil?” Deputy Calleary responded that his party “opposed any system of Apartheid and that Fianna Fáil’s legislative record in government shows this”.
Padraig MacLochlainn TD said Cllr Sean McEniff had “called for the Apartheid, basically the segregation of 40,000 Irish men, women and children.” He said Cllr Eugene Dolan had “pretty much” said Travellers should be sent to Spike Island. In an interview with the Donegal Democrat, Cllr Dolan stated that he “didn’t care” if Travellers were sent to Spike Island.
Deputy MacLochlainn said there were double standards at work: “Last year the Fine Gael Mayor of Naas, Darren Scully, made comments that were racist about the African community. He resigned as Mayor of Naas and Fine Gael removed the whip from him. But here we have two councillors, (Eugene Dolan and Sean McEniff) who have made outrageous comments, have shown no leadership, have been reckless in terms of what they have said and I would argue created an environment where somebody felt it was acceptable to burn down the house.”
He said what had happened was like something you would expect in Alabama during the Civil Rights protest - “a family of 13, about to be housed, have their house burned down”.
He said his view would not be popular with many people but added “people need to stand up”.
Huge Friel of the Donegal Travellers Project said what had happened in the past four weeks in Donegal was like “a train wreck”.
Mr Friel, who told Mr Browne he was a member of the Travelling Community himself, said there was “not a political will” to speak out about racism against Travellers in Donegal. “Travellers are at the cold front of racism in Irish society, we are subjected to discrimination and it has got more blatant with people speaking out about the Travelling Community. This creates an avalanche of racism in our county when a public representative can come out and state them words and not be disciplined. He should be dismissed from the party, there is no reason why he should not be dismissed.”