“Life in ‘property-owning democracy’ means people cease to see accommodation and shelter as a right. They cease to see it -if ever they did see it- as the condition of possibility for other rights -to health, to education, to a decent standard of living. Instead they see it as just reward for their own personal endeavour, and, ultimately, an object of competition, an asset to be traded and hence, guarded jealously. As for one’s neighbours in this regard, it becomes seldom a matter of simply wanting to live in a pleasant community, but of living in a community that can be sold as pleasant. They see this way of the world expressed by their political respresentatives in government, by newspapers, by TV programmes, by family members, work colleagues… with no other horizon.”
What distinguishes the residents of Rockville Drive, who, in the wake of the Carrickmines fire, mounted a protest against emergency accommodation for Travellers who had been left bereaved and with nowhere to stay, from residents of other comfortable housing estates throughout Ireland?
Very little, I imagine: something similar would happen in a great many other places up and down the country. There is a generalised opposition to living beside Travellers, rooted in racism, classism (consider how the insult ‘knacker’ applies both to Travellers and to urban working class people), fears about property prices, fears about what living next to Travellers says about them. If it appears strikingly cold-hearted for residents of an area to oppose giving other human beings some temporary place of shelter, it’s only because this kind of situation doesn’t come to the fore very often in national media. The attitude is there all the time, and it…
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