Spare a thought for gypsies and travellers

Gypsies on field at Middleton Park Avenue, Leeds
Gypsies on field at Middleton Park Avenue, Leeds

Coun. Gordon Birtwistle MP appears to have misread our letter and has come to the incorrect conclusion the Traveller Movement has called him a racist and is interfering with his “job”.

For the record, we did not call Coun. Birtwistle a racist; we instead accused him of not doing his job as we believe he has broken the legal duty to foster good race relations that all councillors have to abide by.

However, some of the remarks left under Coun. Birtwistle MP’s petition to stop all traveller sites in Burnley are racist and prejudicial. One comment, for instance, calls the potential Romany gypsy or traveller site occupants “scroungers” and another complains of the mess and rubbish that will accompany the sites. This is regardless of the fact gypsies living on authorized sites will pay rates and have their rubbish collected in exactly the same way as any other Burnley resident.

With the rights of being an elected council member and MP, comes the responsibility of not discriminating against minority groups and promoting, rather than endangering, race relations.

It is Gordon Birtwistle’s responsibility to distance himself from prejudicial and offensive comments on his campaign material and send out a very clear signal that, whether you’re for the sites or against them, racism has no part to play.

So could all campaigners and local politicians pause and spare a thought for the gypsy and traveller residents of Burnley – and their children – who are the focus of your efforts? They have to read all your stuff too. So please mind your language.

Mike Doherty

The Traveller Movement