Traveller Discrimination | Why The Media Must lead The Way | By Peadar Hopkins

A 20-year-old Irish man was charged with assault today in Sligo. 

An Irish woman was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment for cruelty to animals.

An Irish banker has denied defrauding the taxpayer of billions leading to the collapse of the Irish economy and devastating society.


We seldom hear about the ethnicity of the perpetrator of a crime unless it’s a traveller and certainly never see the above examples citing the Irish as the boogey man.  Someone’s place of birth, colour of skin or ethnicity has no relevance or place in constructive impartial journalism.  However, in practice it is the overriding detail that dominates the headline whenever a traveller is involved in any crime.  It does not reveal any insight into a crime, it does not present an impartial perspective and I cannot think of a single genuine reason to splash anyone’s nationality all over the headline of a newspaper other than to capitalise on societal prejudices in order to profit.  Yes, some travellers do commit crime but so do every other nationality. This is not just an oversight but a poor and reckless choice by the majority of journalists who see the ethnicity of a traveller as a tool to embellish and give an edge to their story. This is lazy journalism and must be challenged.  It reinforces an often unconscious racist mindset and the end result is that the children of travellers are being exposed to expressions of hatred and hostility, often leading to a lifelong sense of alienation, smashing their confidence and adding to their already towering deficit of opportunity.  I am not suggesting we hide from using the word traveller or relegating it to a taboo subject but I am suggesting a simple bit of mindfulness of the consequences of this type of journalism. Most people never encounter any problems with travellers but many of us have a disproportionate negative view of travellers based on the only encounter we have which is mostly the sensational black and white print on a newspaper. 

We are at a crossroads. We can go backwards and have further and more extreme racism; we can go left and right and stagnate in the politics of nothingness or we can go forward and embrace our traveller brothers and sisters.  We must open our arms and hearts, support all minorities in the workplace, challenge casual racist remarks, and welcome travellers like any neighbour, friends or family.

We must be aware of the incredible creativity, culture and entrepreneurship that is engrained in many travellers by necessity. When nobody will give you employment you soon learn to be self-sufficient, how to plan, adapt, master negotiating and get stuff done.  I write this one month after the terrible fire that claimed the lives of 10 travellers, and there has been a small, positive pause for reflection from many Irish people and this is to be welcomed.  We now need the media to lead the way with a new mindset, as its words, print and actions amplify a message. Let that message be not one of hate, suspicion and division but one of love and the same equality we only a few months ago celebrated.