Pointless letters

Oct 9th, 2007 | By | Category: Ireland

Writing to politicians probably doesn’t achieve much, unless they are Government ministers they have no power anyway, and even members of the Government rarely do anything that civil servants don’t tell them.

Despite the pointlessness, I sat this morning and wrote to one of the deputies for a country constituency.  A Traveller family I know are living on the roadside and are hoping for housing in a rural area.

In the time I have known them, they have lived in two houses in Dublin; in one they were intimidated out by another Traveller family.  The intimidation was simple, the windows of their car were smashed repeatedly, the Gardai said they could do nothing as there were no independent witnesses.  They lived on the roadside until finding another house. The second house was in an awful estate where the family worried the whole time about the safety of their small children.  They felt an old caravan at the roadside in a rural county of Ireland was a safer place to be.

I know every argument about the Travellers, and, no, I wouldn’t want a halting site on my road, but there must be some better way of handling their situation than the current attitude of neglect or piecemeal responses.

The traditional Traveller lifestyle is no longer economically viable.  The seasonal casual work, on which most of them lived before the days of social welfare, has all but disappeared and, with a tightening of the economy, funds for social welfare payments to Traveller families, like all other families, are going to be less plentiful.  For those families with school age children, constant moves are educationally harmful,and sometimes lead to long gaps in the children’s education when they are not granted places in local schools.  Constantly living in an environment of hostility and physical deprivation is not conducive to good psychological health, it is hardly surprising that both parents of the family I know have a history of deep depression.  In the long term, settlement and integration must be the nettles to be grasped.

I pleaded with the TD to whom I wrote, that the psychological well being of the family and the educational welfare of the children would be helped by them being housed where they felt safe and secure.

Apart from eliciting a polite reply from the deputy’s secretary, I don’t believe the letter will make any real difference.  There are few votes in doing anything for Travellers.  I wonder sometimes if there is anyone who will do anything for them.

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