I am writing in response to a review by Ian O ‘Doherty of the book Gypsy Empire by Eamon Dillon in
The Independent on Saturday 12th October. Ian O’Doherty’s appraisal of the said book smacked of the old boys network. One male journalist endorsing his colleague’s particular agenda. In his overall praise of the book Ian O ‘Doherty talks about how his journalist friend managed to gain trust into a closed community. Getting people to talk is not hard work. It’s easy to present a veneer of decency to people of a vulnerable disposition. People who were often grieving and experiencing trauma.
What I take issue most with is the use of the word ‘infestation’ that he used to describe “corrupt Tarmac layers” a word that’s reserved to describe rats. The language he uses to describe Travellers is offensive and is borderline incitement to hatred with a tinge of racism and anti-Traveller sentiment.
Ian O ‘Doherty has built his career on his self-belief that he is a controversial and provocative journalist.
Our community does not have to open a book or a newspaper to know that being controversial is a cover to hide a particular agenda. He is self-deluded and as a community we’re always happy to oblige his rants. However we would encourage him to attempt to broaden his field of interest. Everybody writes about Travellers with similar opinions, Ian is not a lone voice. Another self-appointed settled expert about a community that he can never really know.
Nobody is denying that there is a small element of criminality and antisocial behaviour in our community. It’s in every community. What is problematic is the continuous attempt to denigrate humiliate and target the wider Traveller community with words, images and articles that in another civilised country would be illegal.
Maybe Ian O’Doherty could occasionally address other Traveller concerns that deal with the high level of unemployment, suicide, infant mortality and accommodation issues within our community. But dare I suggest these issues would seem far too complex and deep rooted for his superficial understanding of oppression.
Mr Hughie Friel
Minceirs Whiden (Cant for Travellers talking)
Irelands all Traveller Forum