“It’s not a lifestyle choice. It’s who we are as people.”
I’m keeping this short.
Because it shouldn’t take long.
What I have to say is pretty straightforward.
There’s a point during my conversation with Chris McDonagh when I genuinely wonder what century we’re talking about.
Whether it’s the tale of a family having their home burned out by neighbours because they didn’t want Irish Travellers moving in, or his memories of being placed on the “Traveller Table” at school to be simply ignored by the vast majority of teachers, or when he tells me how hot and cold running water is still seen as a luxury on certain Traveller sites, it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is the discrimination, the poverty and what’s coming next.
Chris himself seems to be caught between two futures during the interview. One is the optimistic possibility arising from his own activism: his Travellers Against Racism campaign, his involvement with Friends Families Travellers and the belief that he can change people’s opinions if they see him as they see themselves – as an individual worthy of consideration and respect.
The other future is one where nothing changes for the better. Where his individual engagements aren’t enough. Where the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (coupled with the reduction in Traveller sites) manages to strip away the culture shared by him and his children.
It seems to be the one that’s winning.
That’s why I’m keeping this short.
Otherwise I might cry.
If you think that an over-emotional response to our interview then feel free to offer me a reason for all this. Because I can see none.
So, emotion it is.
Sometimes that’s all there can be, much more so than arguments over the number of pitches provided or the rise in complaints about “unauthorised sites”.
The claim that Irish Travellers are getting just as short a shrift in Ireland as they are over here (if not shorter) cuts little in the way of ice when faced with one inescapable fact.
By doing nothing, we threaten to destroy a society. A whole society.
In the 21st century.
Shame on us.