The following blogs consist of summaries of visits I made to Gyspy and Traveller sites last week [the intern in question is “Yours Truly”]. Please forgive the more formal or impersonal tone but they were originally prepared for a report to the European Roman Travellers Forum. For one site, it was important to protect residents’ anonymity so I was unable to mention names of persons or exact locations.
Regardless, I hope they will give you an idea of some of the work UKAGW does. As for the story of Johnny Delaney, I can’t tell you how heartbreaking and forever shocking it is when racism escalates to this level… Read on.
SUMMARY OF UKAGW SITE VISIT: TARA PARK, LIVERPOOL
Tuesday, June 12, 2006: Kay Beard of the United Kingdom Association of Gypsy Women (UKAGW) and an intern from the Advocacy Project in Washington, DC visited Tara Park—an Irish Traveller site located in Liverpool, England. They were also accompanied by a community support worker from Irish Community Care, also based in Liverpool.
Purpose: The purpose of the visit was to meet with the Delaney family whose son was the victim of a hate crime in March of 2003. In addition, the visit was undertaken to provide the intern an opportunity to meet Irish Travellers and to equip her with a better understanding of their unique culture and the issues that face them.
General: At the park, the group met with Mrs. Winifred Delaney whose 15 yr. old son was killed in a racist crime nearly three years ago. Johnny Delaney was kicked to death on a playing field after visiting relatives*. Witnesses overheard the killers—two-16 year old boys—say that he [Johnny] deserved it because he was a gypsy and proceeded to call him, “dirty-gyp whore.” Despite these testimonies, the presiding judge did not rule the crime racist, resulting in a much more lenient sentence for the two boys responsible: both were sentenced to five years but were free in 18 months. Mrs. Delaney also lost her husband in March of this year. Since the death of his son, John Delaney had been a tireless advocate for the Traveller community working to promote Traveller culture and ensure their human rights.
*If you’re interested in reading more on Johnny Delaney and racism in the Traveller and Gypsy community, check out this website
In addition to visiting with Mrs. Delaney, Mrs. Beard assisted a resident who was recently served an eviction notice, advising her of her rights and providing the name of a solicitor. Because there were several other park residents present during these discussions, they also benefited from the information provided regarding their rights and the resources available to them.
Concluding Remarks: The visit provided the intern with a valuable glimpse into the lives of Irish Travellers and the unique problems they face (evictions, harassment, hate crimes, e.g.). For UKAGW, the visit is one of many ongoing efforts to promote Roma human rights and ultimately put an end to discrimination. By acting as a voice for people typically without one, UKAGW helps to ensure that rights are understood, and respected. Further, UKAGW works to inform the wider community of the discrimination and oppression Travellers and Gypsies experience in an effort to lessen differences and promote equality.
SUMMARY OF UKAGW SITE VISIT: CHESHIRE COUNTY, ENGLAND
Monday, June 12, 2006: Kay Beard of the United Kingdom of Gypsy Women (UKAGW) and an intern from the Advocacy Project in Washington, DC visited a Gypsy site located in Cheshire County, England. Two environmental health agents were also in attendance.
Purpose: The purpose of the visit was to address an ongoing evictions problem that has resulted in site neglect and subsequent harassment of residents.
General: Kay Beard of the United Kingdom Association of Gypsy Women (UKAGW) met with a small group of frustrated residents on a site in Cheshire County to discuss an ongoing two-year problem related to health and safety violations existing on the park. Some of these issues concern improper drainage, obstructing entry to the park (i.e. an illegally zoned barrier that prevents access to and from the park for emergency vehicles), and the basic neglect and subsequent disrepair of common areas. Of particular concern is a pool of stagnate water located behind the toilet facilities as a result of poor drainage. High grass in a neighboring lot also creates a potential fire hazard.
Concluding Remarks: UKAGW has been advocating on behalf of the Cheshire site to make sure their situation is not overlooked. While some progress has been made (i.e. a court summons relating to the illegal barrier) and the local planning department is responsive, the process is weighted down by bureaucracy and the subversive tactics of the owners of the site who would like to change the planning/zoning of the site and put chalets on the grounds. This action would make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for current residents to remain on the site largely because they cannot afford the higher cost of a chalet. In the meantime, some of the residents are in poor health and the poor condition of the park exacerbates their situations.
Posted By Lynne Engleman (United Kingdom)
Posted Jun 22nd, 2014