THE politically-correct brigade came close to skinning alive Peter Casey, a candidate in the recent Presidential election, after he expressed the view that Travellers should not be defined as an ethnic minority (With names like Reilly, Driscoll, Ward and MacDonagh, they were the same as the rest of us!).
It was a point of view to which he was entitled and, indeed, did not seem intended as a fig-leaf for naked prejudice – which did not protect him from the rage of the infantile loonies that inhabit Facebook and Twitter.
But here’s the interesting bit: Some time ago, our Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan, declared that accommodating four Traveller families in her neighbourhood would be ‘a waste of valuable resources.’ Her self-proclaimed error-free, politically-accurate party, Fine Gael, did not disapprove in any way of her contentious observation, even though some might say her statement was particularly repellent.
But there was no major display of public indignation either in the Dáil or media and Ms Madigan glided unscathed through a minefield that had the potential to do her great political damage.
In other words, the political establishment seemed to say that it was perfectly legitimate to take a skelp off wannabe president, Peter Casey, but not at all proper to have a go at Ms Madigan’s nasty ‘Not In My Back Yard’ philosophy.
Of course, a contributory factor to the dearth of criticism was the fact that she represented Fine Gael in the posh constituency of Dublin Rathdown – and respectable people tend to steer far away from controversy.
No halting site?
So, here’s what she told the Indo-Sindo on December 6th, 2015: ‘I live in Mount Merrion, right?
‘And putting a halting site here, quite frankly, would be ridiculous from a financial perspective …You could buy a site somewhere else for a third of the price and house more families. There’s no room for it anyway.
‘There are other residents here and whether or not they would want to live beside a halting site … some people are of the opinion that there might be more crime, that there might be anti-social behaviour.
‘This is land that now is worth about €7m or €8m. My only point was from an economic perspective, not anti-Traveller. Why not sell that land and house 60 families?’
When the Sindo asked if she would be happy if 60 Traveller families moved onto the site to make the best use of the land, Ms Madigan replied: ‘No, no. My point is … I am talking about selling the site.’
Asked if she would personally have a problem living beside a halting site, she said: ‘There is no reason to have a halting site here. I mean there’s no room for it anyway apart from anything else, you know? From talking to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown (County Council) there is no particular demand for a halting site in this area from the Travellers themselves.’
A convincing argument, indeed, but when one takes into consideration the fact that Travellers are one of the most marginalised groups in Irish society, and that hostility characterises their relationship with most of Irish society, Ms Madigan’s straight-from-the shoulder opposition to sharing with them the leafy avenues of her constituency was remarkable for its frankness.
All the more so on account of her current functions as Minister for Culture, which include the promotion of ideas, customs, social behaviour and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement.
Yet, from her comments, one got a teensy-weensy feeling that housing Travellers did not fit into such an impressive job description, nor did she seem to be a fan of their nomadic lifestyle, their distinct dialect, their love of horses and pugilism, their innovative commercial activities, their folklore and their ethnic relationship with colourful, fandango-dancing Gypsies who live chiefly in Western Asia, Europe and soon in South County Dublin (we hope).
We’re sure that the FG Minister will correct for us any misunderstanding about her attitude to Travellers and we have no doubt that it is very much her intention to welcome Travellers to her street (some day in the future) and to the lovely houses that the Council will build for them, preferably with facilities for the auld horse.
In the meantime it would be remiss of us not to remind our readers that the Minister of Culture does her utmost to promote understanding between neighbours, ensuring barriers are overcome through a spirit of kindness, brotherly love and fellow-feeling.
What’s more, if Travellers ever should move-in next door, she’ll recognise that they can be outstanding members of the species Homo sapiens, just like herself, and that the scales eventually will fall from the eyes of her party, Fine Gael. Then, our nomadic brethren will be seen as delightful people with human problems similar to those of their well-heeled neighbours.
And in chats over the garden fence, the Travellers no doubt will ask her how one becomes a famous minister in Fine Gael and Ms Madigan will answer with professional authority and kindness. Of that we’re sure.
Who knows but chances are that her new Traveller neighbours will become outstanding constituents and supporters of Fine Gael! Come the day, they even might canvass for her – on horseback, of course!
And now for something different: Brendan Howlin’s practical joke. In the wake of Labour’s recent national conference, the Labour leader urged what he called ‘progressive’ candidates and their supporters from the Green Party, Social Democrats and Independents to give their twos or threes to Labour in the event of a general election.
The response from the Lefties was hilarious. ‘Not on your nanny, Brendan’…. ‘Your lot is heading for the knackers’ yard’… ‘Brendan, would you ever stop going around and stirring up apathy’…. ‘For God’s sake, don’t anybody vote for Brendan, you’ll only encourage him!’
Sad, as Trump might say.
As clear as mud
Oh, and the heat is on the Grand Auld Duke of Cork, Mickey Martin, to clarify whether Fianna Fáil will contest next year’s local elections in the Six Counties. Recently a right ‘balls-up’ occurred when former senior minister Éamon Ó Cuív and Senator Mark Daly launched Fianna Fáil’s first ever candidate to contest a council election in the North.
Mickey blew a fuse and put a sudden stop to Fianna Fáil’s electoral antics in the Six Counties. But now an Independent councillor, Jarlath Tinnelly, has written to every F&Fer in Leinster House asking what the blazes was going on in relation to FF candidates standing in the North. ‘It’s not unreasonable for me to ask for certainty and clarity in regard to Fianna Fáil’s intentions,’ he said.
To which the FF parliamentary party (presumably) chanted: ‘And that’s another fine mess you’ve got us into, Mickey!’