Enough is Enough – MP Bigot Exposed

The Traveller Education and Informatin Project – Girls from Aberdeen in a real Gypsy wagon at the Open Roads Festival in Glasgow in 2000.

Continuing our series of ‘Letter Bombs’ – this as Ellie Dooks takes on Labour’s hapless Brian Donohoe MP:

Below is an email I sent to MP Brian Donohoe this evening in response to his comments about Travellers in the Ayrshire Post. This article is now available online, but with a heading different to that in the printed version, which is “Enough is enough! MP Blasts Travellers” You can read the online version here:   http://www.ayrshirepost.net/2011/07/01/third-eviction-order-serviced-on-ayrshire-travellers-102545-28962242/       I thought his response to my first email, which came after only a half hour, was even more offensive and ignorant than his original comments had been. I responded accordingly.
From: Eleanor Dooks  To: DONOHOE, Brian Cc: John Allan and Harry Garland
Subject: Response to your comments in the Ayrshire Post
Dear Brian Donohoe MP,   I am writing to you in response to an article I have just read in the Ayrshire Post, published today. The article is about the Travellers who are currently stopping in Mossblown, and mostly it features your reported comments on the situation.   I was compelled to let you know how upsetting and disturbing I found the statements you made, and in particular the language you chose to describe the people involved and the way this complex situation should be dealt with.
It is offensive to refer to the arrival of any group of people in Ayrshire as a “scourge”, and it’s shameful that you find it acceptable to say this about Travelling People. Your comments are racist, and they are exactly the kind of remarks that encourage the fear of Travellers so common among the settled population, which leads often to violence and intolerance on both sides. I think it is really irresponsible of you as a public figure to make such remarks to the media.   I was also uncomfortable with your choice of wording for your suggestion on how to resolve the issue. You call it the “Tamworth Solution”. This is reminiscent of a phrase used by Adolf Hitler when he wished to eradicate Gypsies and Travellers as part of his Holocaust. Surely it would be wise to avoid such connotations when discussing what is essentially the removal of a group of people you clearly dislike, off what you consider to be your patch. I find it revealing that you felt this turn of phrase was appropriate.
If you would like to open your mind to another possibility for living together harmoniously, and learn about Travelling people and the difficulties they face, I would invite you to read the following 2009 report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It is called “Gypsies and Travellers: Simple Solutions for Living Together”.
You can find it online here:   http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/key-projects/good-relations/gypsies-and-travellers-simple-solutions-for-living-together/   I have copied this email to the Ayrshire Post, to John Allan, and to Harry Garland for information.   Yours sincerely,   Eleanor Thom Ayr resident, PhD student at UWS, and author of The Tin-Kin, (Duckworth, 2009)
HIS REPLY (read this with blood boiling):   — On Wed, 29/6/11,
Dear Eleanor   You make the fundamental error of believing there is ANY connection between ‘race’ and the ‘Travelling People’
You take a very ‘romantic’ view which for someone so intelligent is extremely concerning   I have spend 20 years examining the situation trying to ‘connect’ with the ‘Travellers’ who have singularly failed to demonstrate any responsibility for the actions that cause so much grief      Perhaps you should do the same before accusing me of making outrageous statements   I have also copied this email to the Ayrshire Post       Brian H Donohoe MP Central Ayrshire
AND MY REPLY:      Wednesday, 29 June, 2011, 23:35
Dear Brian Donohoe MP,   Thank you for your very fast reply to my email. I’m afraid your suggestion that there is no connection between ‘race’ and ‘travelling people’ is not correct at all. I would like to draw your attention to the following statement made by the Scottish Government:   http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/Equality/gypsiestravellers/ethnic   I have no romantic notions about Travelling people. I am from a Travelling family that settled in the early part of the last century, and I still have cousins who travel permanently in Scotland. I am very aware of issues on both sides, and having worked with Travellers as well, I am aware of acute problems with attitudes both within the Travelling community and within the settled population.
If you have spent 20 years trying to communicate with Travellers and have yet to do so successfully on any occasion, perhaps you are going about it in the wrong way. Making such comments in the press, referring to a group of people as a “scourge” could rightly be taken the wrong way by any community, don’t you think?   I do hope you will look at the report I mentioned in my earlier email. I wrote to you because the wording of your statements upset me, and I wanted to point out that the implications were there, whether intended or not.    Yours,    Eleanor Thom
FURTHER CORRESPONDENCE ADDED THIS MORNING:    — On Thu, 30/6/11,Date: Thursday, 30 June, 2011, 0:28
Eleanor   You underestimate me as far as this issue is concerned If you think I haven’t researched this subject you are sadly mistaken and rather naive.   I have had your ‘cousins’ at my office indeed have travelled to Perth and elsewhere in the UK to meet ‘genuine Travellers’ but experience of the rogues who unfortunately cause me to come to the conclusion that there is no structure to the Community you try to defend   are at present in my Constituency and no doubt will again cause grief in Mossblown having done so  in Prestwick and this week caused major problems in Irvine.
As the Joint Chairman of the Showman’s All Party Group in the House of Commons my record of defending  the responsible ‘Nomad’ population is there for anyone to see.   With your background I would have thought you would have known that.    Brian H Donohoe MP Central Ayrshire
Dear Brian Donohoe MP,   Thank you again for your email. I was not aware of your work with the Showman’s All Party Group. While I’m sure you do very good work with them, that does not in my mind make it alright for you to cast gross generalisations about an entire group of people in the press. With your background, I would have expected you to know that.   What exactly do you mean by “genuine Traveller”? That is in itself a very questionable statement, and I can only assume you mean Travellers who were forced into houses, assimilated, and are no longer causing you “grief” by being “rogues”. It may interest you to hear that my Travelling relatives were themselves described in exactly that way by a particular local press last year. They were on a legal campsite at the time.
I’m clearly not the only person who has taken offence at your manner in dealing with Gypsies and Travellers, so to suggest that my doing so is somehow a lack of research on my part is rather a weak argument. Your language would be enough to convince anyone of your prejudice, but if you need further convincing, the quote below is from an article in Frontline Vol 2. Issue 10. July 2009. You can see the full version here: from http://www.redflag.org.uk/frontline/july09/travellers.html
You are mentioned twice.
“In early 2008, after a series of inflammatory pieces in the local press, an Ayrshire Labour MP Brian Donohoe raised a debate in parliament to discuss the “problem” and put pressure on the Minister to give local authorities more powers to move people on who are perceived as a nuisance. This was backed by other Labour M.P.s including Renfrewshire MP Jim Sheridan, and left unchallenged by their colleagues. The racist language used in Parliament would be familiar to readers of the Daily Express and other tabloids which frequently stir up anti-Gypsy feeling.”
Eleanor Thom
I was pleased to get a more measured reply from Harry Garland, who I copied in on my first two emails and the responses:   He says:
Hi,   Clearly I am not in a position to publicly comment on your correspondence, I would however indicate that our Council takes the rights and responsibilities relating to travelling people very seriously. I am happy to continue to receive your views and should you wish I would be happy for you to meet with our dedicated staff who work with our travellers to try and get a legitimate balance between their wishes and those of the wider community. A fresh perspective or indeed support and challenge are always welcome. Please let me know if you would like to meet up.
Best wishes   Harry     Harry M Garland   Executive Director   South Ayrshire Council
MORE FROM BRIAN DONOHOE:       — On Thu, 30/6/11, DONOHOE, Brian
Eleanor   I do not withdraw a single word of what I have previously said which is based on the experience of the cost of cleaning up the mess left behind by those   ‘travellers’ who come to Ayrshire   Were you to use the influence you suggest you have to end the clearly irresponsible behaviour witnessed by events then I would think what you say would have some merit     I challenge you to that task as I have to others who have failed to make any difference to the situation we face
Brian H Donohoe MP Central Ayrshire
AND MY RESPONSE:   I have not suggested at any point that I have particular influence. I am a member of the public who recognises prejudice and is unprepared to settle for it. I certainly have nowhere near as much influence on policy as you do, as a politician.    The task becomes ever harder because of the slanderous comments made constantly by yourself and others with your view.  But rest assured I will continue to try and get my point across.   And I would still welcome at some point your views on that report, which I believe proposes a far less expensive, and far more intelligent, harmonious way of proceeding than continuing with the current situation, or your bulldozing through anything like your “Tamworth Solution”.
ANOTHER EMAIL FROM DONOHOE: he appears to lose the thread of the argument here as there’s no reference to the report I ask him to comment on, and he is unclear on wherein lies “my problem”. I will try and respond to this later after Ivor’s lunch.
Message begins:     There lies your problem Eleanor   I no longer given my long experience look at the position of the ‘Travellers’ through ‘Rose Tinted Glasses’ but at what is there for all to see As a consequence of the ‘anarchy’ of those who unfortunately rule the roost I fear we will make little progress as I have  with the Showmen and firmly believe that the  romantic notion that you portray and with those who wrote the Scottish Executive Report we will NEVER have any semblance of orderly behaviour by those you try to defend         Brian H Donohoe MP Central Ayrshire
Hi Eleanor,   Many thanks for your email, as yet I haven’t seen the Ayrshire Post so I’m not in a position to comment. Here in South Ayrshire we have a very good rapport with the travelling community, we have a dedicated site and also dedicated staff who deal with the balance between their wishes and that of others as Harry stated in his reply.   As Harry said, it would be great if you wanted to meet up with our staff as your input would be welcomed by all.
Kind Regards,   John     Electoral Ward 6. Kyle Scottish National Party – Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta Na h-Alba Councillor John Allan

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  1. Barry Graham says:

    It seems odd, and unprofessional, that Mr. Donohoe responds to Ms. Dooks’ reasoned criticism by insulting her personally – calling her “naive” and “romantic” – rather than addressing the points she made.

    Yet another nail in the Labour Party’s coffin in Scotland.

  2. I am delighted to read of nationalsts being critical of others who take take a racist position.
    I am also delighted to read of nationalists being critical of those who respond to reasoned criticism with personal insults.
    I hope that in the future the SNP make every effort to remove both these patterns of behaviour from their own work.
    A flying pig has just gone past my window,

  3. Barry Graham says:

    Mr. MacLeod – That pig should check its wings; I’m not a nationalist.

  4. bellacaledonia says:

    Not everything written on this blog is for or by nationalists Maxwell (thank God).

  5. Barry Graham says:

    Being opposed to imperialism – i.e. thinking that no country has the right to govern another against its will – seems to me to be about moral common sense rather than nationalism.

  6. scunnered says:

    Perhaps Ms Dooks would like to come up to Mossblown and clean up the filthy mess left behind by all these parasite pals of hers that she is championing. Oops no sorry that’ll be the council tax payers of South Ayrshire that will pay for that won’t they? A pigsty has now been left on three separate sites and now they are boked in Ayr on yet another public playing park.
    Also Ms Dooks may wish to ask the residents of Mossblown about the anti social behavior dished out by these particular poor, persecuted travellers before opening her sanctimonious trap.
    They’ve chased kids who live here and threatened them with their dogs which run unchecked and feral.I myself was attacked by a pack of these dogs whilst pushing a pram and walking my own dog .The travellers stood and watched this not lifting a finger to control their dogs.They obviously didn’t want any villagers walking near their illegal howff. It could have been a child on the receiving end. They have also been caught prowling in peoples gardens and I don’t think they were admiring the fauna .Drinking unchecked in the street..the list could go on and on. The worst thing about it all is that the police can’t seem to touch them.
    To clear any confusion these are Irish travellers, the drive laying variety and they are definately a damned SCOURGE.

    1. Martina says:

      Well done Scunnered for totally missing the point! Ms Dooks’s comments have nothing to do with Mossblown or any other town this group of Travellers has stayed in, nor any other specific group of Travellers. It’s about Brian Donohoe MP’s prejudice towards all Travellers, his badmouthing of all Travellers and refusing to look at alternatives (and less expensive ways) to meet a balance between the needs of Travellers and settled people so what has happened at Mossblown doesn’t happen in future.

      And having spoken to these particular Travellers myself, they were very polite, and certainly were not Irish, so where are you getting your facts. Did it even occur to you they may have been forced to leave in a hurry? And I wonder why that might be… maybe because Brian Donohoe MP and others of his narrow mindset make it sound like a fine idea to go round intimidating Travellers wherever you see them, whether on legal sites or not.

    2. scunnered says:

      Martina you may well actually have missed my point completely also.As long as travellers continue to behave as this lot have done then people will continue to depise them. The public do not need to listen to politicians to form their opinions they only need to see the evidence in front of them and on this occasion the evidence was very damning indeed.
      I accept I may have been wrong in assuming they were all Irish travellers but came to this conclusion when visited at my front door by one of their children,aged about 10-12. The boy sounded Irish to me. He was clutching a scrunched up leaflet and asking whether I wanted a new driveway. My husband has since then informed me that from what he heard of them they sounded English.That was when he witnessed them lobing five bags of rubbish into the bushes in the park
      With regard to you saying they were polite then I would beg to differ. Polite people don’t leave that kind filthy mess behind them.They don’t intimidate the locals and they don’t damage the environment for others. Maybe if they had done this in your only local park where your children played or you enjoyed a walk then you may feel differently.A fortune had been spent on the playing field to bring it up to some sort of standard for playing football etc on.The travellers came in with their cars,caravans, transit vans and then quad bikes and repeatedly tore across it.
      I am sure that not all travellers behave like his but as long as there are ones that do in our area then Brian Donohoe has every right to say what he has.He was elected by the people here to speak for the people here.I would bet that this lot pay no taxes and as12noon on Thurs 30/6 and didn’t leave until Sun 3/7. If ,as you suggest, they were given far as I can see contribute absolutely nothing to society but arrogantly expect to do as they like and flaunt the law.
      Also they did not leave in a hurry. They were served an eviction notice to be out by a little prompting to move quickly then I for one am delighted as were most of the people in this small village when they finally got the hint and left.
      The taxpayer has since footed the bill to clean up their buliding materials, general garbage and excrement.There are excellent refuse disposal facilities available not three miles from here but they chose to dump all this mess knowing full well nobody was going to issue them with a fly tipping fine.

  7. carandol says:

    Threadscan be a bit hard to follow wi’ out losing sight of the weave but tonalities can ring louder and that which I see in front of me does seem to be bluster and anger on at least one part. I don’t know the details of Mr. Donohoes story but the narrative he does present is as one of personal contact and details such as ‘there is no structure to the Community you try to defend’ and ‘we will NEVER have any semblance of orderly behaviour by those you try to defend’ makes me wonder what manner of contact he had had.
    In the moment it is by manners that we live, I wonder what manner of state this politician believes we are in.

  8. Jim Drummond says:

    The undoubted SCOURGE are sicophantics who believe that some humans are more “equal” than others. The disgusting behaviours demonstrated by a public official is about the democracy he wants, without any travelling community. Whilst slating the travellers for their mistakes two wrongs do not make a right. I would be in touch with the parlimentart ethics committee like a shot if my MP started using discrimination to enrage community members, He – the MP – has exceeded the role off his office and should resign keeping every word he said if thats his preference. As for the constituant who was “attacked” what action did she take, there are laws that apply to all communities such as controlling dogs feral or otherwise. These are administered not by MP’s but by the police. Perhaps an enquiry needs making by the erstwhile MP to futher his constituant very bad experience. Whats the betting he will do nothing to support the individual in case he should be infected by the disease ridden criminals called Travellers. As I said the ethis committee would be my next call, of course thats after reporting him to the local party owners that gave him the opportunity he so easily abuses.

  9. Scunnered says:

    Well Mr Drummond. I shall tell you exactly what action I took when their pack of loose dogs ‘attacked’ me.I was pushing a pram and walking my own dog when about ten to twelve terrier type dogs and Chihuahuas running loose in a pack started BITING at my legs.The wonderful ‘travellers’ just stood and watched, not lifting a finger or saying a word to control the dogs.I went home shaking and immediately phoned the police as you do when when something like this happens. Two policemen appeared at my door within a couple of hours and although sympathetic they couldn’t do a damned thing about it.What were they supposed to do exactly? Go over to the playing field and chap every caravan door in the hope that one of the ‘travellers’ would actually admit to being the owner of the offending dogs??There was no chance of that.They also got away with leaving the place like a total pigsty.No fly tipping fines for them.I went over to the field once they finally left and witnessed what they left behind – it was utterly disgusting.Building materials dumped,rubbish dumped,they were even nice enough to leave us,the locals, with their excrement.There are facilities available not three miles from here where rubbish came be disposed of properly but they CHOOSE to dump it wherever.They also left the same disgusting mess on at least three sites throughout Ayr and Prestwick that I know of.The local weekly paper even printed pictures of it.Mr Donohoe is only saying what 99% of the taxpaying constituents who elected him actually think.I believe that is what he is paid to do.Maybe the lovely travelling folk should set up camp in a playing field near you and turn it into a ‘no go zone’ for you and your children and then you may feel differently.

    1. Jim Drummond says:

      So the police did not excercise the Dangerous dogs act– sorry about that and all their excuses–More examples of public servants failing their community. At the least they should have called the RSPCA to investigate what animals are being let loose and whyas a service to you to restore some confidences in taking a walk. As for your MP he has to obey the law the same as I do, he was not elected to slate any part of the community whatever there ills are. I have two traveller sites with a mile of my village and within 10 miles we have another 2 major encampments where travellpers have purchased the land and conformed to local planning restrictions. In our last house my children went to the same primary school as traveller children and I can assure you there are as many nice families as there are the ones that are “on the road” who do make abuses where they go. Your MP would be better served to find bridges and make contact with traveller instead of counterproductive comments which highlight his own class prefrences.

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