“So Zach, you’re leaving us? When ya coming back to help us out some more? We could use you sticking around a bit longer.”
Completely lost in my thoughts while walking through Dale Farm, I raised my head quickly to see in what direction the voice had come. After glancing over my shoulder, I saw Kathleen sitting complacently in front of her chalet, enjoying a cup of tea on another overcast English day.
At the age of 62, Kathleen has seen more than most people dream about. Born in Limerick, Ireland, Kathleen came to England when she was five years old. Until stopping at Dale Farm five years ago, Kathleen had traveled her entire life, moving at first from town to town with her parents and then later with her husband and seven children.
Today, Kathleen, like many other men and women living at Dale Farm, is old and ill. Her traveling days long since past, Kathleen has grown used to life at Dale Farm. Unaccustomed to the modern amenities that most of us take for granted before she settled at Dale Farm, Kathleen has grown used to having running water, electricity and a washing machine to clean her laundry.
Even if her health permitted her to travel, Kathleen readily admits that she would be woefully unable to resume the traveling life she once gladly led.
Kathleen represents the most distressing aspect of the whole eviction saga that has been built up around Dale Farm in the past six years. Now adapted to their surroundings, unable to travel due to health restrictions and living in chalets instead of mobile caravans, elder Travelers are currently situated in an extremely tenuous position.
If, next spring, the High Court agrees with the Basildon Local Council and decides to enact forceful eviction proceedings against Travelers at Dale Farm, what will happen to Travelers like Kathleen?
Since accommodation sites for Travelers have not been developed, any forceful eviction would place Travelers on the roadside or any open space where they can relocate for a few days before being moved on again.
Under such circumstances, it is unlikely that all of the elder Travelers will survive.
As local and regional politicians argue about the correct number of Traveler plots that need to be developed within Essex County in order to accommodate the existing Traveler population, the human element of the plight of Travelers like Kathleen has been lost.
It is tragic indeed that local officials, so determined in their desire to see Dale Farm lay to waste, can’t seem to understand that if they let Travelers remain at Dale Farm, the site’s properties would count toward the East of England Regional Assembly’s proposed quota for Traveler pitches, reducing the already low number that would need to be developed.
In despicable fashion, Basildon Council members have scoffed at this idea, stating publicly that they already have enough Travelers in their district and that other districts and counties need to bear their share of the “Traveler burden.”
Would elected officials refer to population “quotas” in their districts for any other minority? What right does a local council have to decide who lives where and in what number?
Filling my bags as I prepare to leave with the numerous gifts that Travelers have given me as tokens of their appreciation for my work this summer, I feel vexed.
Have I done enough? Could I have done more? Has my contribution been significant at all?
Perhaps the true measure of my work here isn’t that I have dramatically altered the confrontation surrounding Dale Farm, but, rather, that I have worked hard for something I truly believe in and that, as Kathleen stated, my work has been appreciated and valuable
Posted By Zach Scott
Posted Aug 3rd, 2007