Belfast Telegraph

Senator with Traveller heritage says Clifford Lee’s tweets should not end career

Padraig Mac Lochalainn, who has Traveller heritage, says offensive tweets about the Traveller community made by a senator should not end her career.

Lorraine Clifford Lee is Fianna Fail’s by-election candidate in Dublin-Fingal (Niall Carson/PA)
Lorraine Clifford Lee is Fianna Fail’s by-election candidate in Dublin-Fingal (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aine McMahon, PA

Derogatory remarks made about Travellers by a politician should not mean the end of her career but she needs to apologise to Travellers, a senator has said.

Old tweets from Fianna Fail’s by-election candidate in Dublin-Fingal, Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee, have emerged where she made derogatory remarks about Travellers.

Tweets from 2011 emerged where she said a “knacker” had stolen her car – and that clothes she had seen looked like they were from a “traveller wedding”.

Ms Clifford Lee has apologised for her tweets, claiming there is a smear campaign against her, and said she would meet with the Traveller community to apologise for her comments.

She should take the opportunity as a political leader to reach out to Travellers and listen to their story and see it as a chance to do something positive Senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn

Fianna Fail said Ms Clifford Lee will not face any disciplinary action in light of her tweets and remains on the party’s ticket in the upcoming by-election.

On Wednesday, Sinn Fein Senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn, who has Traveller heritage, said he did not think the tweets should end her political career.

He said: “I wouldn’t be calling for a head. She has a chance now to do something positive with this. She can acknowledge that at a moment in time in her life, that was a view she held.

“She should take the opportunity as a political leader to reach out to Travellers and listen to their story and see it as a chance to do something positive.

“I feel it was a qualified apology; she accused people of being involved in a smear campaign. The bottom line is if you put something on social media, and at the time she was a member of the Fianna Fail Ard Comhairle – she was not a teenager, she was a grown adult and a solicitor.

“What she put on social media was wrong. There was a qualified apology but there needs to be a proper apology.”

There are a lot of people in Irish society who have a very negative opinion of Travellers and many of them have never engaged with Travellers and never actually met Travellers or are basing it on some TV programme that they saw Senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn

He added: “I am of Traveller heritage but I grew up in the settled community so I see both sides of the equation. We would be dishonest to say she is an exception. I think there is a very large group of people in Ireland who have those views and her opportunity now is to apologise firstly for the language she used. It was deeply offensive.

“There are a lot of people in Irish society who have a very negative opinion of Travellers and many of them have never engaged with Travellers and never actually met Travellers or are basing it on some TV programme that they saw.”

Mr Mac Lochlainn said standing up for Traveller rights in the Irish Government is not a vote winner but Ms Clifford Lee needs to start building bridges with the Traveller community.

He said: “Young Travellers grow up being called pikeys, knackers, tinkers and trash. This is what leads to a huge effect on their self-esteem and a massive suicide problem in the Traveller community.

“She needs to genuinely apologise and meet with Traveller community representatives and redeem herself.”

PA

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