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Travellers ‘facing racism’ over claims some are flouting Covid-19 restrictions

Dr Brigid Quilligan said campaigners had urged the community to comply with guidelines.

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Dr Brigid Quilligan, of the Kerry Traveller Health Community Development Project (Brigid Quilligan)

Dr Brigid Quilligan, of the Kerry Traveller Health Community Development Project (Brigid Quilligan)

Dr Brigid Quilligan, of the Kerry Traveller Health Community Development Project (Brigid Quilligan)

A Traveller campaigner said the community has faced racism over claims some members have not abided by the coronavirus restrictions.

Dr Brigid Quilligan, of the Kerry Traveller Community Health Organisation, said her community was “under siege”.

The Travellers’ rights campaigner said there are some 2,000 Travellers living in Co Kerry, adding that around 100 of them have not adhered to Covid-19 guidelines.

“Our team and our community have begged them to do so for our health,” she said.

“For whatever reason, they didn’t comply. They got condemnation from our community.

“We developed pieces of work to bring people with us in the fight to stop the spread. The majority of our community led by example.

“Across the county, individuals and families stayed apart, spent time with their own home dwellers and felt solidarity and acceptance that as Irish people, we were all in this together and would do our part.

“When some settled people who were partying or spitting on gardai came to light, Travellers condemned them as individuals. When some Travellers partying and gathering in groups came to light, all Travellers were condemned.

“Suddenly, it shifts from individual responsibility to the responsibility of 40,000 people.

It's open season on Travellers and gypsies during this pandemic and the silence is deafeningBrigid Quilligan

“We were called on and expected to stop these individuals from breaching guidelines. We did that never needing to be asked as community members.

“But why is it expected that we police others?”

She said that Travellers have been targeted and have been subjected to racism in recent weeks.

The activist, who manages a team of Traveller community health workers, has been delivering care packages to the elderly and helping vulnerable people.

“We worked with (Kerry County Council) to provide hygiene packs to all halting sites,” she added.

“We are part of a countywide community response team.

“We have supported people from all ethnicity. Our team have worked incredible hours and with incredible heart. We are frontline workers.

“Travellers and gypsies do so much good, not for praise but because we are good, generous, thoughtful, kind, respectful people.

“We could bow our heads, live quietly, accept racism. Pretend our ‘friends’ know there’s good and bad in every community.

“It’s open season on Travellers and gypsies during this pandemic and the silence is deafening.”

PA


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