Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2219

‘We face bigotry from the settled community.’

This article is over 11 years, 4 months old
Mary Ann McCarthy, who has lived at Dale Farm for almost nine years, told Socialist Worker about the situation facing Travellers there
Issue 2219
Mary Ann McCarthy in her home at Dale Farm.  (Pic: Socialist Worker)
Mary Ann McCarthy in her home at Dale Farm. (Pic: Socialist Worker)

“In all the time I’ve lived here we’ve never had peace of mind. There’s always been the threat of eviction.

I’ve been evicted in the past. I’ve had police rattling windows at six in the morning saying you’ve got to get out. They wouldn’t even let me boil the kettle to give an infant some milk.

I’ve been a Traveller my whole life. But travelling got harder—we were always being moved on and over time had fewer places to go to.

When we got this land it wasn’t a beauty spot—it was a mess. We tarmacked the road, put septic tanks in, put electricity in. We cleaned it up and made a home out of it.

It’s hard to explain why I want to be a Traveller to someone who isn’t one.

I’ve never lived in a house in my life. I never thought of doing anything else but travelling.

Here I can leave my door open and it’s fine, I know everybody and I feel safe. If I had to live in the settled community, I’d be scared my neighbours would call me a dirty Gypsy. I wouldn’t feel safe.

If we had to move it would split up the community because there’s nowhere big enough for us to live together.

The council says it offers us alternative housing but it is offering us places that no one would want to live in. And a lot of people have been offered no place at all.

They offered me a bedsit—one room on my own away from my friends and family.

The local press and MPs say we don’t want to integrate. But I have a lot of friends in the settled community. We go to bingo and mass with them. I would like more mixing. But it doesn’t always happen and that’s not our fault.

I’m delighted that my grandchildren go to school. They love it. They started off going to school with about 200 settled children. But the parents took the settled children out of the school within weeks.

Things have got worse since the Tories came in. They are only for the rich because they’re rich themselves.

The council says there are too many Travellers in Basildon. They would never say that about any other group.

We’re just living on hope.”

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