We pride ourselves in Ireland today for being a modern pluralist state. The stranglehold of the Catholic Church no longer moralises for us, we apparently welcome diversity, we voted in favour of gay marriage and soon we will probably legalize marijuana too if I'm any judge.
We opened our doors to Poles and other Eastern European nationalities, we ushered in Nigerians and other Africans and we are queueing up to do our bit for Middle Eastern refugees now also. Maybe Enda Kenny should call it a great little country to be different in. We should have a great big banner in all our ports and airports that proclaims, "We treat our minorities well here."
That's not the case of course if you smoke. A cigarette is now the badge of second-class citizenship Irish-style. But leaving that fact aside a moment, we have all of the rest of sorted don't we? Except we haven't and we still don't want itinerants anywhere near us.
In Carrickmines last week at a temporary site for travelers, a fire claimed the lives of ten of them. Respectable society mouthed its sympathies of course and then the bickering began. Firstly the Council condemned the site which raised the question of where to re-settle the surviving itinerants. Locals in Carrickmines wanted the place closed and the travelers moved anywhere but near them and this attitude has sparked mixed reactions around the country. I don't believe myself to be a racist and if foreigners moved into our park my inclination would be to view them as normal or ordinary unless they proved otherwise.
That's fine as far as it goes but then I have to ask myself, what if it were an Irish itinerant family instead? The EU has designated them a protected race so nobody can lawfully speak their minds on this. Yet I have heard voices on the radio point to the dirt and litter these people create, the thieving and house-breaking they engage in, the scams they seem involved in, (see tarmacadam), and then there is the gratuitous violence or feuds. It appears that we settled people don't want to risk any of that moving into our area.
And so the remaining grieving travelers from Carrickmines have been given an out-of-use car-park as another temporary halting site. If it were any of us in the same predicament there would be public outrage but most people quietly look away at this news with the thought that at least they're not going to appear on my road. Surely it is not enough to say, "They're not wanted here!" You could not say that about homeless Syrians without a backlash. Many subscribe to the notion that the itinerants themselves are to blame for the hardened attitude towards them and there might be something in that too.
By and large they prefer to keep to themselves and their nomadic lifestyle means they don't integrate in any meaningful way. So who exactly erects that barrier. The truth of it that we know of them rather than know them. How many of you are friendly with and socialize with any of them? My guess is very few. Our opinions of travelers are learned rather than experienced but if the solution is to allow them next door that presents another problem. If the stereotype proves even half true then there's no getting rid of them, is there? So nobody wants to take the chance.
But that means that we are NOT a modern pluralist state as regards the itinerant community and where does that leave the gay itinerant for example. Is he acceptable and un-acceptable at the same time? These things are relative, aren't they. The gay tinker still has a problem.
But then, who would you prefer to live next to if there was only two choices, an itinerant or a smoker?
Is it the smokers who are knackered?