Following demands for Fianna Fáil to discipline Cllr Sean McEniff for his comments about Travellers, the party leader is set to meet with Travellers’ Representatives.
Some elected representatives and Travellers’ organisations blame Cllr McEniff’s comments that Travellers “are all bad eggs” who “should be located away from settled communities” for inciting racism. They believe that the fire which destroyed a Ballyshannon house allocated to a Traveller family was racially motivated, although this has not been proved. While gardaí are calling the fire suspicious, they have not used the word “arson” in any of their statements.
A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said, “It is clear that Cllr McEniff was speaking in a personal capacity and his views do not reflect Fianna Fáil policy. “Fianna Fáil has the strongest record of any party in the Dáil when it comes to supporting the Travelling community and advancing Travellers rights.
“Party Leader Micheál Martin has been very clear that what happened in Ballyshannon was wrong and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. He is scheduled to meet the Irish Travellers Movement next week.”
Jacinta Brack, spokesperson for the Irish Travellers Movement, confirmed that the meeting is set to take place next Wednesday.
“We wrote to Micheál Martin and the Taoiseach on January 23, following negative remarks made by Cllr Sean McEniff and Cllr Eugene Dolan about Travellers.
“We asked the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to meet with us about anti-Traveller comments made by their members.
“As a membership-based organisation, we would take action if we felt any of our members had said or done anything to incite racism or hatred. We would expect the same, if not more, of an organisation made up of elected representatives. As such, they have an extra responsiblity to show leadership when dealing with sensitive issues.
““We are calling on both Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Enda Kenny to show leadership and discipline their members in this matter.
“We received a reply from Micheál Martin on Tuesday, confirming that he would meet us next week and we have invited a representative from the Donegal Travellers Project to attend that meeting with us.
“To date, we have not had a reply from the Taoiseach’s office.”