Belfast Telegraph

Traveller author tells of Dale Farm struggle

An author from the Traveller community whose family is among those facing eviction from Dale Farm is in Londonderry this weekend to speak about her family's plight in Essex.

Christine Donovan, who penned the award-winning novel Jump Derry, will also take part in the Big Oak Literary Festival at Prehen where she will read excerpts from her book which tells the story of young love between an Irish dancer and a parkour (the art of moving round obstacles with speed and efficiency) enthusiast growing up in modern-day Derry.

Up to 1,000 Travellers face eviction from their own land after a High Court ruling gave Basildon Council the green light to send in bulldozers and remove the 86 families who have lived there for 10 years.

Among the families who could find themselves homeless on September 19 are Mrs Donovan's relatives, including her aunt who is in her 70s.

Speaking to the North West Telegraph, Christine Donovan said: “My aunt is a frail old woman who has been badly affected by all this and she is not unique, there are others in exactly the same condition and worse but the authorities don't seem to care about human rights and dignity when it comes to Travellers.

“This has been an ongoing legal battle for the past 10 years where Basildon Council have relentlessly pursued the eviction of our people from their own land which was once a scrapyard but the Travellers cleared it out, cleaned it up and applied for planning permission so that they could settle there.

“Basildon Council just are not interested in finding a compromise and have spent £18m — a third of their annual budget — to push this eviction through despite the United Nations issuing a directive to the Government saying that they can't do this.

“John Prescott, when he was Deputy Prime Minister offered an alternative piece of land to the Travellers but Basilton Council refused planning permission on this land too. They just want to drive the families onto the road.

“We are worried sick about our relatives but the messages of support they have received from all over the country is what is keeping them going but at this stage I think a miracle is the only thing that will save them.”

Christine will detail the plight of the Travellers of Dale Farm at Sandino's in Derry tomorrow evening at an event organised by Derry's Socialist Workers Party, but prior to this she will attend Prehen House as part of the Big Oak Festival.

She said: “This is definitely a weekend of two halves for me. I am so looking forward to participating in the Big Oak festival in the city which inspired me to write my first novel.

“I was sitting in a cafe in Derry during the feis and I was amazed at a young Irish dancer sitting so nonchalantly in her feis dress, wig and full regalia revising for her school exams.

“When I was growing up in in England, Irish culture and Irish dancing had to be almost kept underground because not every one liked the Irish, so it was so refreshing for me to be here and see this young girl so free to enjoy her culture.

“At the same time I was also doing some work with young people involved in parkour and why they did it, so the book tells the story of love between these two young people, and while it is set in modern day Derry there are also recollections of the Troubles.”

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