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Carrickmines fire tragedy
Savage cruelty to travellers a warning to all victims of housing famine.
1 November 2015
Many people have expressed horror at the unbridled racism that emerged in Ireland following the deaths of ten Irish travellers, the majority of them children, at a fire in Carrickmines, Dublin.
Following initial expressions of shock and horror following the deaths the old bigotry asserted itself. Two mourners were turned away from a local pub. A temporary site allocated to the travellers was barricaded by residents and the devastated survivors are now to be offered accommodation in a council car park. When funerals took place in Wexford many pubs closed to avoid serving the mourners. With a typical show of hypocrisy Kenny and Howlin turned up at the funeral while their followers led the charge of the bigots.
We can compare this to a protest against the awarding of a home to a Nigerian family in East Belfast last year. As in Dublin, the protesters denied racism. In Belfast their call was; "local homes for local people." In Dublin; "consultation." In both areas they received political support. Peter Robinson said the protests were expressions of local culture. Enda Kenny of Fine Gael supported the right to consultation. In both areas the press were kind to the protesters, allowing them to speak anonymously.
Here the comparison breaks down. Dublin has no equivalent to the loyalist gangs and the high levels of state collaboration that allow them control of entire areas and the freedom to carry on sectarian and racial cleansing.
What we must focus on however, is the endemic nature of anti traveller prejudice, the role of the state and links to the more general oppression of the working class.
So, when the state deems a car park suitable accommodation for a traveller family it directly threatens the many homeless families and those sleeping out in Dublin. It cracks the whip at the tens of thousands of families struggling under unsustainable mortgage debt. At the top of the tree sits NAMA - the bad bank that used public money to secure bankrupt properties and now defines its only task as generating foreign capital inflows - a target not unconnected to the need to finance a give-away election budget.
It generates cash by selling large swathes of Irish property at tiny fractions of their original value to vulture capitalists in New York. The process has been mired in scandal and allegations of millions in bribes being paid to politicians and speculators.
The Garda provide the force needed to support the endless corruption. They are able to provide stormtroopers to oversee the installation of water meters, to arrest protesters and to invent new criminal charges that threaten years in jail, but are unable to house two families in the face of objection by a dozen people.
The afflicted traveller families were left to rot in a fire trap. Attempts by Dublin activists to house the homeless on derelict sites are met with legal action and eviction proceedings. Even desperate attempts by Labour, in coalition government, to seek some control of landlordism is rejected by their partners in Fine Gael, deeply mired in property speculation.
The open degradation of the grieving Traveller families illustrates the need for a working class party, able to assert the class nature of the bigotry and the interests of the whole of the working class. Unfortunately it also shows that "people power" is not a useful instrument of struggle - a spokesperson for the local "People Before Profit" movement disassociated themselves from a counter-demonstration against the bigots on the grounds that protest be modified to suit background negotiations.
There are however many spontaneous housing movements and anti-eviction networks across the country. There are many who rallied to the defence of the travellers. It is to these forces that we should now look.
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