23 July 2002
Ó Snodaigh criticises first seizure under anti-Traveller legislation
Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Equality, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has criticised the first seizure of Traveller caravans under the new Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002. Deputy Ó Snodaigh has called on the Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform to rescind the law.
Speaking in advance of his attendance at a Trinity College Law School seminar on the human rights implications of this law, Ó Snodaigh said:
"This law is discriminatory, and Sinn Fein therefore opposed it from its introduction. Taken in conjunction with the utter failure to tackle the Traveller accommodation crisis throughout the state, the only way to interpret this law is that it makes Traveller culture illegal. As such, it violates Travellers' human rights and equality rights that the Government is legally bound to protect.
"This law targets the symptoms of the Traveller accommodation crisis, but will not solve it ? indeed, it will only aggravate the situation by confiscating homes. The law also does not serve settled communities well, as it stands to increase tensions between the Traveller and settled communities. The first seizure case in Ennis highlights perfectly the potential problems of this law.
"The Travellers were forcibly evicted from an encampment on public property, despite the fact that there is no serviced halting site available to them in Ennis. Their caravans were seized following pressure from settled residents. What this legislation effectively introduces is a mechanism for the enforcement of settled residents' anti-Traveller prejudices. As such, it undermines recent anti-racist initiatives, and cannot be allowed to continue.
"I call on Minister McDowell and this Government to do the right thing. Honour the commitment to equality-proof all legislation. Rescind the anti-Traveller law. Enforce existing trespass and littering laws when necessary. Accelerate the Traveller accommodation programme.
"I believe that the Government should advance a new, comprehensive and serious initiative to improve cross-community relations, to defuse existing tensions, and to promote reconciliation between Travellers and settled communities."
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