By Oisín McGovern
TD Peadar Tóibín has slammed remarks made by a Galway County Councillor calling for Travellers to be stripped of their ethnic minority status.
Fianna Fáil’s Donagh Killilea made the comments on Galway Bay FM during an interview about violent scenes which occurred in Tuam recently.
The Aontú leader described Cllr Killilea’s remarks as “ignorant” and “disheartening”. He also called on Fianna Fáil leader Mícheal Martin to comment on the issue.
Cllr Killilea said: “We get sick and tired of hearing about this ethic minority status and all the rights that they have. Everybody in the country should be treated the same.
I know fine members of the Travelling community who don’t want to be associated with this kind of thing. But it’s time to remove the ‘ethnic minority’ tag from everybody in this country. It doesn’t matter what colour, race or breed you are, everyone should be treated the same”.
Mr Tóibín dismissed these comments, saying: “These remarks, while they may win votes for Fianna Fáil, trampled on the good work being done by traveller rights activists in terms of encouraging education and preserving the rich cultural and musical traditions of the travelling community.”
Cllr Killilea, who stood in Galway East in the recent general election, declined to comment when contacted by Galway Pulse.
Mr Tóibín praised Aontú representative and Tuam native Martin Jonsey Ward, who ran for the party in the General Election in Galway East. He received 582 first-preference votes and was eliminated on the second count.
Mr Ward was also the first-ever member of the Travelling community to serve as Mayor of Tuam for two consecutive terms.
“As a member of the travelling community, Martin Jonesy has engaged in all sorts of wonderful activism in Tuam town. He is the Manager of Brú Bhríde Community Centre in Tuam, and has supported the development of youth work activities for the past thirty-odd years both at local and national level”.
Peadar Tóibín and The Irish Traveller Movement and have yet to respond to requests for comment from Galway Pulse.