Josie O'Driscoll: Holocaust, Independence And The Future For Travellers In Herts

November 17, 2022 00:52:32
Josie O'Driscoll: Holocaust, Independence And The Future For Travellers In Herts
The Plastic Podcasts
Josie O'Driscoll: Holocaust, Independence And The Future For Travellers In Herts
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Show Notes

The only Irish Traveller to found and head a Gypsy And Traveller Exchange, Josephine (“Josie”) O’Driscoll talks visits to holocaust sites in Krakow, education, family and her hopes for community ownership among Gypsies, Romani and Travellers. Plus John Lee of Irish Stew Podcast raises author Peter Quinn onto The Plastic Pedestal
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:21 How are you doing? I'm Doug Davan, and you are listening to the Plastic Podcasts Tales of the Rd asra. This week we journey to pastures unknown, at least for us to hear tales unheard of. Kaley Hartfordshire from Josephine or Josie o Driscoll, CEO of Gate Hearts, the Gypsy and Traveler exchange for that area, as well as Chief Officer of Report Racism, g r t born to a traveler family in Ireland. Josie came across to this country in the 1970s and lived a nomadic life until settling in hearts in the 1990s. Josie's CV is filled with awards and citations, but we'll get onto those later. Suffice it to say that she's the first ever Irish traveler to founder, g a t e, and organizes annual visits to Holocaust sites in Crackow. Each August as we speak, the first reigns of that month are beginning to pour, and Josie has just returned from Crackow. We're about to talk the impact of those visits, and also Jimmy Carr's notorious, quote unquote joke about the extermination of gypsies and travelers in Nazi Germany. But first, let's begin by asking Josie o Driscoll. How you doing? Speaker 2 00:01:26 I'm fine. Thank you very much. <laugh>. I'm, uh, enjoying the not so hot weather today. Speaker 1 00:01:34 Yes, yes. What was Poland like for weather? Speaker 2 00:01:37 Oh, it was hot over there, but not as hot as other years we've been, and we've been doing that since 2017. We started taking a, a huge group, but this year we decided to take, um, an older group because we thought that was important for, um, older people to get an understanding of, uh, the Roman Holocaust. We've went for the last four or five years with taking a, but this year we actually, uh, went ourself as an organization. Speaker 1 00:02:07 Uh, what was the reaction? Like? What was the response? Speaker 2 00:02:11 Um, a couple of the group we took have been before, um, but for the ones that hadn't been, um, there was all different kinds of emotions. Uh, some of them come out there out of, um, Auschwitz, uh, quite sad moron. Were actually angry. Angry that, um, Roma weren't really mentioned. We had the guide that took us around in Auschwitz and that the, uh, Roma genocide wasn't really mentioned within the, the guide's, uh, speech. So, uh, they were a bit angry about that, that they still weren't recognized. Speaker 1 00:02:49 Did you talk to the guides about that at Speaker 2 00:02:51 All? Well, the guides have a job to do. It wasn't just our group. They had the about 40 people that were taken around, so we didn't really get a chance to speak to the guide, and actually, we, we actually left the guide, the group and went on our own way to the, um, block Dine, which is the Roma block where the Roma were held. Speaker 1 00:03:12 What were your feelings there? What, what was that like? Speaker 2 00:03:15 Um, I've been a couple of times in the past, but every time you go, it's still the same kind of feel feeling that, um, we have to prevent this from happening again. And, uh, the climate today is very, is a very hostile one for gypsies and travelers, especially with the new, um, police crime sentence in the courts. But, uh, where families, uh, can be arrested now, where they made trespass illegal. Speaker 1 00:03:40 You say that when you've gone, um, previously you've taken, uh, younger people along there and then, uh, it was an older group this time. Was there any difference in the response? Speaker 2 00:03:49 I think for older people, um, because younger people, not that they can take it in their stride, but they're able to process things better as far, I think for older people, it's a bit more, uh, why didn't I, why didn't I know about this? Why didn't I educate myself about this? A lot of them didn't know anything about, uh, Roma being in the Holocaust. Um, so I think when you get a bit older, it's really processing it, and it's a different, it's different than younger people. Speaker 1 00:04:22 Do you think then the Traveler Roma education about traveler Oroma history and, and, and identity has been lost or, or simply forgotten for that Speaker 2 00:04:30 Generation? Well, it's been denied for a long, long time. Um, it, it's, it's not that long ago that, uh, it was just formally recognized that Roma were part of the Holocaust. So, um, there's not a lot in the uk, although they are making a new, uh, Roma Memorial, um, in the History Museum. Um, I think a lot of people still don't know about the Roma being, um, in Holocaust, and we have to educate people everywhere we go, and people would say, I didn't know anything about that. Like, I knew they knew about the Jews, and, um, but they didn't know anything about the Roma, and that's why we tried to educate people. So not just gypsies and traveler people, but people outside the community so they can, uh, multiply the knowledge. Speaker 1 00:05:25 Yeah, that, that sense of being forgotten, that sense of being put to the wayside, that sense of like, uh, not really being part of the, the, the, the central conversation, Do you think that's an ongoing thing that's taking place? Or do you think that, do you think there are outside shards of hope? Speaker 2 00:05:39 To be honest with you, um, we've been doing this work for many years, for 30, 40 years, and things are not getting better. When you think you've made a little step forward, you, you get, you're pushed 10 steps back. Um, it's just the continuous, uh, trying to educate people, trying to change hearts and minds and, and trying to change attitudes. And we're only going to do that through educating people about who we are, um, or culture or traditions. Um, and the culture is, I find it that it's harder to, to, to keep these days because people are being pushed away from the community. They're pushed into, uh, bricks and mortar, and a lot of people are being forced into bricks and mortar. They don't want to be there. Um, but they have no choice today because it's impossible to travel. Um, when they do travel, they're hounded, they're ran. It's like a cat mouse Speaker 1 00:06:47 Game because you, you were nomadic for quite some time. Yes, mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and were born in Ireland, first of all. Yes, Speaker 2 00:06:55 Yes, I was nomadic. We traveled up and down, uh, the uk We, every part of the uk uh, Europe, and if we go back to the eighties, there didn't seem to be as much hostility or hatred towards gypsies and travelers. I mean, we often said, um, in cities, uh, within blocks of flats, encampments, uh, surrounded by blocks of flats. And the thing is, we were left there maybe for three, four months, maybe six months, and we had a chance, and we got the time to build up relationships with the local community. And we often, we have friends within those communities that they've been lifelong friends, but today people don't get that chance. Like they're in a camp for a day or two and they're gone. Uh, they're lucky to get a day or two in a camp now. Speaker 1 00:07:50 So you were traveling, um, both in Ireland and in the UK and across Europe until the nineties? Yes, yes. Speaker 2 00:07:55 Yeah. Speaker 1 00:07:56 You think that was a very different world then? Speaker 2 00:07:58 Very different world. Very different world. It's, um, there seems to be a lot more hostility now towards Gyps and tra. Um, and for me, I think a lot of that comes from the media, from what people hear, um, what they're seeing on these television programs, channel four, and, um, we're being portrayed as a, a community to, to fear, to, to be afraid of. Every headline you see, uh, in the media is, is always negative. There's never anything positive in the media. And, Speaker 1 00:08:36 And then of course we have Jimmy Carr, Speaker 2 00:08:38 The likes of Jimmy and, uh, others, um, others before him, such as Jeremy, Jeremy Clarkson, if I'm allowed to name them. Speaker 1 00:08:49 Oh, go on. We, we, we're not the bbc. We can never be sued. Speaker 2 00:08:52 Um, it's those kind of statements from people like that, um, that give people the opportunity. Or sometimes people feel that, Well, these people can say this about gypsies and Dragers, Why can't we, you know, it often comes from the top, the negativity often comes from the top. Um, and it gives permission to others, uh, to, to be able to be negative about gypsies and trappers. Speaker 1 00:09:21 Yeah. Yeah. I, what gets me, I, it's a soapbox of mine. Um, but what gets me about, about Jimmy Car is, is that he is an educated man of, of Irish stock. You know, he's, you know, like he'll lived through that period as sort like the, the troubles and the thick make gags and all that sort of thing that happened in the seventies and things like that. And just thinks that it's okay to turn around and do it again. Speaker 2 00:09:43 Yeah. And, uh, the thing for me about the Jimmy Car situation was that, um, he actually was educated and did his homework, and he knew he'd get a laugh from that, um, because, uh, there was so much hostility against Gypsies Anders. Um, he did it to get a laugh. That's what he wanted to get outta it. And he did that. And it's the audience as well, the audience at him or with him, whatever way they did it, um, it was wrong. It was, it was wrong of him. To do that, to take people's ethnicity and, um, and turn it into comedy, it's not a nice thing. It's, it's for our children. We have to go through that. They go through it every day, and, uh, you can see why there's so much mental health and suicide within the community. It's, it grind you down. It's something that you have to put up with daily in your daily life. Speaker 1 00:10:50 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Find us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. As mentioned before, Josie o Driscoll's CV is, as long as my arm and yours put together, not only does she have an advanced award in the management of gypsy and traveler sites, and trained as a mediator for the Council of Europe, she's also the first Irish traveler to found and lead a gypsy and traveler exchange. I wonder how she got started down this particular road. Speaker 2 00:11:18 I was rearing my family. I have seven children, <laugh>. Um, so when they were grown, I decided I need to do something for myself. And, um, I started in the local citizens and Vice Bureau volunteering as a gateway assessor. And, uh, I enjoyed that. And from that, I started a Gyps Traveler project for the Citizens Citizen Advice, um, because we found that gypsies and travelers didn't really like coming to Citizens, Citizens Advice. It was placed in the local offices. So there was that, um, fear of authority that they were somehow connected to the local authority, which of course, they're not, They're a separate entity. Um, but people didn't understand that, so they wouldn't really go to the office. And we found when we had our, we took it out of Citizens of Rice, and we took it into a local, um, college, <inaudible> College, and we had a, a room there in the, uh, children's, uh, service in the Children's Center. And we found that people were coming to us for help. And so it was just removing that fear of authority. It's not that people didn't want to come for help, it was where they were placed. And, um, I suppose, uh, we kind of educated citizens advice a lot about gypsies and travelers as well. Things that they didn't know about Gypsies and TRAs. Speaker 1 00:12:56 So what was it made you go towards advice? Was there just a need to get something done for the people around Speaker 2 00:13:02 You? Yeah, we found a need in, um, Shire for Gypsies and TRAs. Uh, there was nowhere you'd have to go into the middle of London if you wanted any support. Um, so we needed to set up something in Arture, and people often came wanting, uh, forms filled, you know, people that were illiterate, uh, wanting forms filled in, or, um, showed them how to use the internet or those kind of things just for, uh, general support. Um, and really there was nothing around her for sure. So we decided to set up Gate. Um, I did volunteer with the Travelers movement for a couple of years, um, just to see, I had no idea how a charity worked or, um, I wasn't very well educated, to be honest. Um, but it's something that I wanted to do. And, um, I had support here in Shire from, uh, the local council, um, from people working in other, um, charities in other, uh, not-for-profits. Uh, they were keen as well to have something set up for gypsies and travelers. So there was a lot of support from non trackers that set it up. Speaker 1 00:14:22 Were you a kind of organizing sort of person before that? Speaker 2 00:14:25 I wouldn't say I was, uh, organizing, but, uh, I just felt that there was a need and because I could kind of read and write and I could see that others were struggling, um, I just tried to help them in any way I could. And it really started from there, people coming to my door and asking me for support. Uh, could I fill in this form for them? Could I, uh, book tickets online for them? Those kind of things, which people take for granted, but if you can't read or write, it's, it's, uh, a big disability. Speaker 1 00:15:01 So when you, when you were a kid, were you keen on reading and writing and things like Speaker 2 00:15:04 That? I was, um, my mother was a great scholar, uh, because in Ireland years ago, even though we're called Travelers, uh, people were kind of settled in one area. So, uh, you'll see in Ireland, that's names come from different towns and different, uh, so we were settled around to Kenny around, fresh around. And my mother had the opportunity to go to school and, uh, get educated, and she passed that down towards, um, we didn't have as much education as what she did. And that, and like, that's going back a long time in Ireland, there was a segregation in classes. And, um, there wasn't that expectation that they were going to go far, they going to do with their lives. So they were often put into the back of classes and, uh, given a color coloring book and allowed to draw, they allowed to do what they wanted. And to be honest with you, it still goes on today in, in some form or other, they don't call it segregation, but, um, uh, children are on reduced timetables or getting off rolled by schools. Um, so it still happens today, but they're not as open with it. Speaker 1 00:16:27 It becomes a vicious circle then, doesn't it? Speaker 2 00:16:30 It does, because, um, a lot of the time you'll hear that, uh, gyps traveler parents or they don't want their children educated, or they don't, they do want an education for their children. But it's, it's hard. And I can tell you that my youngest daughter, um, most of my childrens dead in education and did all of their education. But my youngest daughter, I took her out of, uh, secondary school in year two, because she was tortured inside that, um, name call and, uh, bullying. The bullying she went through. And I, I used to say to her, Ignore them. Ignore them. It's very hard to ignore people when it's constant, constantly going on. And in the end, I removed her from school. She came back one day with a scar on her face, a big scratch on her face. And the school, never, my daughter-in-law picked her up from school, school, never gave me a phone call. Speaker 2 00:17:32 Um, I think they were, they were happy to get rid of, uh, her out of the school, even though she was performing well. And in, in primary school, I was told that she was an a star student, that, uh, she could do whatever she wanted to do. So it was, she had a great, um, education in the primary school. But when she got into the secondary school, things changed, uh, because older children can be a big cruel at times. I think younger children are not as bad. They take children, they take other children as they come, but the older children at that age, they start, um, the bullying. And, uh, so I left her in it for a while, and after a couple of months, I just took her off because her mental health was every bit as important to me as her education. Speaker 1 00:18:27 And how many years ago was that? Speaker 2 00:18:30 Oh, she's 24 now. So it was quite some time ago. Speaker 1 00:18:33 It's still not that long ago though, is it? I mean, so we're talking secretaries school, we brought 12, 13 years Speaker 2 00:18:38 Back. Yeah. And she did college, uh, after that. And she had a good experience in college. She did hear in beauty and, uh, and she wanted to go back. She wanted to learn, but she just wasn't allowed to learn in the secondary school because she was too busy defending herself or, um, trying to keep her head down and listening to the slurs every day. Speaker 1 00:19:02 You become wary all of a sudden of any kind of outside authority after that, don't you? Speaker 2 00:19:07 You do. Speaker 1 00:19:08 But that kind of ties in with what I was reading from what you said about the days of starting off, or, and d people that you encountered when, uh, at the of Vice Bureau, that travelers would maybe take six, seven rings before giving their surname. Speaker 2 00:19:19 Yes. Speaker 1 00:19:20 Just in case you're gonna get that knock back or, or, or encounter further prejudice, Speaker 2 00:19:24 Not for fear of, um, um, authority. Any authority. Like, uh, council's, government, police, people like to keep their head below the bar. They don't, uh, like to put themselves out there. And then of course, there's, um, fear of, um, being profiled, you know, being on, uh, um, databases and being on, and we know what's happened. We know that it happened in Ireland that, um, travelers were put onto, uh, databases when they used to go in with their passports, uh, to have them assign by the Garda. Uh, the children would be, even the children would be placed on a database as perceived criminals. Speaker 1 00:20:13 Did you ever feel that for yourself? Speaker 2 00:20:16 I didn't particularly, but, um, I did for my children because, uh, I didn't want them placed to be any different than anybody else, you know, to be placed, um, on databases where there may be potentially criminals or, um, we know of many operations, police operations that this was happening, This was happened, this, this was happening with, Um, so there was a fear there that they were on this database. Why we're this database, um, what did the police, or what did the Garda see about Gypsy Traveler children that they thought that, uh, they were criminals from Bert? Speaker 1 00:20:57 No, I'm just thinking when we were talking, when arranging this interview and you were saying you're the only traveler to have set up a A g A E, did you think that putting your own head above about ARPA was, was maybe a place you wanted any kind of database or something like that? Speaker 2 00:21:11 Yes, there's always the fear of that, but at the same time, um, I thought that if I don't do it, who's going to do it? Um, Irish travelers are not great for coming forward, to be honest with you. I think that, uh, English rom gypsies are better at it than Irish travelers, especially here in this country, in Ireland, I can tell you, I know that Irish travelers are, are great at, uh, um, working in these organizations, and there's a lot of them in Ireland. But here, there's, I think we're the only organization that has, um, an Irish travelers, uh, ceo. Um, and that's because I understand, I understand why people, um, have that fear of coming forward. Uh, so they feel more comfortable with their own when they're talking to their own. Um, they know whatever they say here is confidential. They know what I mean. Speaker 2 00:22:12 Uh, Citizen's advice is probably confidential as well, but they're hearing it from on their own. So they, they kind of take that on board and, and they can be more candid with us. Um, they will open up and tell us, uh, things that they wouldn't ordinarily tell, uh, citizen's advice or, and we find that, um, if we have somebody coming in here into this office, that they'll come in with one, um, issue, but by the time they leave, they have three or four different issues. So that's just from talking sitting down and people being comfortable with you and, um, talking to you that they're, they feel that they're able to, uh, tell you about these things. It's like that with Gypsies Anders. It's, uh, word ofout. So if one person comes and gets support, I can guarantee that there'll be 10 people at the door. And tomorrow Speaker 1 00:23:11 We'll be back with Josie o Driscoll in a moment. But first, it's time for the Plastic Pedestal, that part of the podcast where I ask one of my interviewees to discuss a member of the diaspora of personal, cultural, or political significance to them. This week, John Lee of the Irish Stu Podcast in New York talks about the Irish American novelist and Saist Peter Quinn. Speaker 3 00:23:33 He, he was a very important on entry point for me, uh, in the Irish of which I call the Irish Trail of New York. Uh, I, you know, as I mentioned, I was looking for something new and I was networking, and I found my way to Peter Quinn and an effort to save a church on the lower East side of New York, St. Bridget's Church, which was built by the famine Irish and was going to be demolished. And Peter was part of a, an effort of Irish Americans with long since left the neighborhood, uh, Hispanic residents there now, and just, you know, East Village, Rebel Rousers, who all united around the cause. So I had, I played a modest role in that effort. The church was ultimately saved, even, even though a wrecking ball had gone through one side of the building, It, it, they managed to save it. Speaker 3 00:24:25 And it's, it's still functioning as a church. But I got to know Peter there. Peter was just getting started with a group called the Irish American Writers and Artists. He was the president, like, like, as I did mention, uh, the goal was to kind of explore an Irish American identity through arts and culture as opposed to an Irish identity. And I ultimately joined the board there and got to know Peter very well. He's one of these guys. He's, he operates to me. He's on another level, <laugh> somehow. He's my friend, uh, which I, I'm very grateful for. Uh, his, his signature book is Spanish Children of Eve, One of the Great American novels, in my opinion. I think Martin would agree, uh, set in the Five Points neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, uh, where Irish blacks and other nationalities freely mixed in poverty, and, uh, came together and formed something new and unique that held together until the horrible draft riots, uh, during the Civil War. Speaker 3 00:25:27 So his novel encompasses that period. He's written many other great books. He's just a great guy. And I don't know if the word mench is used in, uh, England or Ireland. It's a Yiddish term, and it basically, I think the ultimate meaning is a human being. But, uh, Peter's a mech. And I've heard people, you know, Yiddish is sort of part of the New York backstory. Everybody has a little, few Yiddish words running around in their head from living in New York. And, uh, Peter's just a mech. He's a great guy. And I'm, you know, I don't know why he likes to hang around with me, but, uh, he's, he's a great guy to know. He's been very, very influential. Speaker 1 00:26:07 John Lee there. And if you want to hear more of what John and Martin from Rsq have to say, well, why not listen to their whole interview? Just go to the episodes page, just www.plasticpodcasts.com. Click on their shiny faces, and there you'll have it. It's that simple. Our episodes are also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Audible. But while you [email protected]icpodcasts.com, why not subscribe? Go to our homepage, scroll to the bottom, insert your details in the space provided, and one, confirm email. Click later. A world of plastic will be yours to discover without a single dent in the environment. That's a promise. And now back to Josie o Driscoll. And I want to know if there's a historic reason why Hartfordshire is such a focus for travelers, or if it's a more recent development. Speaker 2 00:26:58 Um, I would say there's, it's both. Um, I think hers is like after Kent and Essex would be one of the highest, um, populated area for gypsies and travelers, uh, with something like, uh, 52 sites here in Shire. 12 of those are, uh, local authority run sites, but there's loads of, uh, private developments, um, people's own yards or own sites. And then of course, there's, uh, the people in houses, gypsies and travelers that live in houses, um, who often get overlooked. Cause people will think, uh, when you move into a house or you're not a traveler anymore. Uh, the word traveler has an awful lot of, um, negatives for us. Uh, they think, Why you're not traveling, you're a traveler, why you're not traveling, that kinda thing. But, uh, they don't understand you're born a traveler. You're gonna die a traveler no matter where you are, whether you're in a house or Yeah, Speaker 1 00:27:59 Yeah. Rather than see it as an ethnicity. Is there a historical reason then, why It's Essex, Kent and hearts? Speaker 2 00:28:07 I think because there were kind of, um, urban areas and people liked it to kind of stay out, uh, cities and they like to be the suburbs. And, um, it has a shire here has, um, a long history, mostly roly gypsies. They've been here for many years. And around Shire you'll see, uh, street names or road names like, uh, travelers' rest, uh, Gypsy Lane, um, around St. Alban's there. And, uh, so Har has long history with gypsies and brothers, and to be honest, would you Shire, especially for gy, it's, it's a lovely place to live. It's, um, we have what's called a gypsy section here, um, which I have my own thoughts about the gypsy section. But, um, for encampments coming in to Shire, I'd say it's not as bad as other parts of the country. They're kind of tolerated. Um, well, there used to be before this new bill, so, um, the council, the gypsy section, who was car, the county council, um, they've kind of built up relationships with gypsy travelers. Speaker 2 00:29:37 So it's a lot of their own people that have, uh, been born and here on the sites. And sometimes the sites are overcrowded and the young people have no choice but to move out on the, on the road, and they don't want to move into bricks and mortar. So they, they move out in and around Shire and cause they're family here, and it, it's often those young people that, um, the council know them, they know them since they were born from living on the sites, but they have nowhere to put them. The overcrowding here, I mean, there's two, 300 people on the wait list here for, um, for pitches on sites. There hasn't been any sites spilled in the last 20 years. Um, so the sites that are here are kind of, uh, well established, well established sites. Um, I know that they're beginning to build a few more. I know that decorum are, have a site on their local plan and they're gonna be building a site, but they seem to half sure, don't get me wrong, it's not, it's not a perfect place, but it's a lot better than other places. Speaker 1 00:30:50 Is that just simply a matter of then of having to go on the road and go on around and around and around until something happens and just get moved on, moved on, moved on? Speaker 2 00:30:57 Yeah. Well, what happens is that, um, they didn't allow for growth. So when the young people are grown up getting married theirselves, they're either doubling up on their parents' pitch, um, which can often put the parents in breach of their license only allowed, um, a certain amount of one mobile home, one car. So that can often put the parents in breach of their license. And, uh, the young people have no choice but to move out there if they, if they can't get a pitch. Speaker 1 00:31:34 And then of course, we have the new bill. Is it an act now? Speaker 2 00:31:38 It's an act now, yeah. Speaker 1 00:31:39 It, it is an act now because, uh, talking again to Chris McDonough and he was saying that there had been actually preemptive evictions and so forth, even before the bill became an act. What's been the situation since the act got passed? Speaker 2 00:31:50 Well, I know that there has been, uh, some places that have been very quick, uh, to use the powers. Um, one place was Milton Keens, I think that was the first one, um, where there was an encampment. And it was the local counselor that actually, uh, put pressure on the police to use these powers. Um, and they did, they come in, uh, armed police came with dogs. I mean, these are families with children that have to watch this and see this. Um, there was a few people arrested. There was a couple of homes confiscated. Um, I'm not sure, uh, the details of it, but I know there was people arrested and, uh, and a few homes confiscated. I, I don't know how those, Did they go to court? I dunno what happened with them. Speaker 1 00:32:53 This is the thing though, and it's, it comes back to the Holocaust issue, whether it's historical or whether it's current affair. The reporting on this just doesn't happen. Speaker 2 00:33:01 No, Um, you won't see that. Well, there was, um, a few news articles about it, uh, in Milton Keens. But, um, you never hear what happens after. You don't know, because obviously the families move on and you probably can't track them down. But that's what's gonna happen in the future with families. They're going to be ran from pillar to post, from being pushed over borders and, uh, leaving other, uh, counties deal, deal with it, instead of providing sites for gypsies and travelers and not just sites. Uh, a lot of people call for transit sites, to be honest with you. I wouldn't live in a transit site. And, and that is the truth. Uh, you are in there and you, you don't know who's coming in. Who's your neighbor? Who's, I'd rather live in the road. If I had to, if anywhere it would be on the road. Speaker 2 00:34:05 I mean, I'm in house because, uh, my husband had an illness and it, he died. He died from that illness, uh, got rid of. But if I had my choice, I would not be in a council site or, um, a transit site. Um, and people are calling for transit sites because they think that's the right thing to do. Build more sites, build more sites. But there's, you're allowed to be nomadic. Well, the law says you're allowed to be nomadic, but, um, they're making it so hard for you to be nomadic that, uh, people are giving up and that's what they're hoping. They don't want to say that, or we're not alone travelers in the uk or we're not allow them to travel. They won't say that, uh, because no madam is not against the law. But, um, they're making it so hard for people that people have no choice in the matter. Speaker 2 00:34:58 Only go into bricks and mortar. And a lot of people on the road cannot afford their own land. That's why they're on the road in the first place. I suppose if they couldn't afford their own land, they'd have a piece, a base where they could, uh, travel from and go back to. But they don't have that. A lot of people can't afford that. Um, so those people that are under road all year round, um, should have stuff places, uh, and places is such a negotiated stopping places. And we've been doing this for years. I know negotiated stopping was something that Lead Gate, um, brought about. But, uh, informally we've been negotiating, uh, stuff with years, uh, with councils and with police. Um, and it worked for a lot of the time. Like, if you had somebody that was sick or somebody need hospital treatment, you'd often, they'd often say, Okay, we'll give you so long. Speaker 2 00:35:54 We'll give you two weeks, we'd give you three weeks. Um, but now it's constant hounded. They're not allowed a day or two. So people are, can't earn a living. Um, they can't get, uh, medical assistance. They can't do any of that because they're being pushed around the, the roles in a, in a game of cat mouse, to be honest with you. Um, and people just get, it's, it's so hard to do in the end, they give up and that's what they want. That's what they want. They don't want any travelers in the UK anymore. They don't want no matters. Speaker 1 00:36:35 Are they just expected to get rented sites or something, or rented houses or move onto council lists what they're supposed to do? Speaker 2 00:36:42 Well, they want people to, uh, fit <laugh>, do what everybody else does, don't like difference. They don't like, uh, people being different. Um, and it's not as easy to say or go and get a, a private rented houses. You need a lot of references for these private rendered houses. You need documents, you need. There's a lot of gypsy travelers today. They still don't have, uh, bank accounts or anything like old fashioned months. They are old fashioned cause they have our modernized, but they deal in cash. They don't have cards, they don't have bank accounts, they don't have anything like that. So it's very hard for them to, um, keep up with the, would they ever change the world. Speaker 1 00:37:39 You're listening to the Plastic Podcasts Tales of the RSD asra. Email us at the plastic podcasts gmail.com. Not only is Josie Odriscoll, founder and CEO of the Hartford Geo Gypsy and Traveler Exchange, she's also a staunch advocate of community ownership within the G RT community. In this last section of our interview, I want to hear more about the bonuses of, and barriers too, this vision. But first, some context. At one point we will be discussing the matter of puns. In March, 2021, it was revealed that the holiday camp firm had published a list of blocked names. All of them, traditional Irish traveler surnames beneath an image of Gandolph and the legend, they shall not pass more than a year on the Equality and Human Rights Commission. E HRC was still investigating these breaches of the 2010 Equality Act, but that's for later. First, here's Josie on community Speaker 2 00:38:34 Ownership. I think community ownership is, uh, something that's really very important for gypsies and drivers. Um, now don't get me wrong, there's a lot of, uh, gyps and traveler organizations out there that community do work in, but they're not led by gypsies and drug. And that can be problematic. I'm not knocking any organization, and they've done great, they've done a great job, uh, over the years, but now we have gyps and travelers coming up that are well able to do that job and should be trained up for those jobs and allowed to take those positions. It's their lives, it's their family's issues and welfare. And, um, they should be allowed to take over these jobs. I mean, anybody that has been in Jo in jobs like this for years, and even myself included, um, I hope that down the line, that gypsum travelers step into my shoes step into this role. Speaker 2 00:39:47 And it should be the same for all organizations as far as I'm concerned, because there is, there's a lot of, uh, gypsum travel is going to higher education now do degrees. Um, and they have the skills and they have, they have the lived experience. They know their own problems and they know, um, they have the solutions. But sometimes when they're given the solutions, they're, the solutions are not listened to. But they do have the solutions to a lot of these, um, problems that are, are happening. So is education the way forward? Education is definitely the way forward. And, uh, um, that's the only way that you can take control of your own, uh, life and your own destiny, your own issues, your own problems, um, is to educate yourself and to give your children an education. So as a lot of, a lot of gypsy travelers wouldn't dream of coming into this field, um, they're, they're probably trying to run away from it <laugh>. Speaker 2 00:40:53 But the ones that do want to come in and do it should be allowed to do that. I mean, we have, uh, five members of staff here. We're only a small organization, but four of them are from the community. Um, and two were younger people that were training up. I think it's that age between primary and leaving secondary, what the problem is in, in the secondary schools after that, um, when people go on into go to higher education, although I know people that have had problems in higher education as well in universities, um, you know, one of our staff here was told that, uh, she should actually hide the fact that she was a gypsy. That she was wrong in a gypsy, that, uh, it wouldn't do any good. That she should kind of hide that fact and not identifying it, that she was told that by the university. Speaker 2 00:41:47 Um, but I think that I don't want, I wouldn't like to see like further segregation where we have just have community initiatives. I wouldn't like to see something like that, but I would like to see, um, more support for young gyps and travelers that want to go on to do higher education. Um, and often it can be funding, um, getting the, the funds for these courses and these, that is the problem, uh, because there's many out there that are keen to do it. They want to do it, but just don't know where to start. They don't know where to. And I know that, uh, Chelsea McDonough, who you had on your last show and, um, another young girl, Chrissy Brown, that they were great in, um, starting up the round long initiative. Um, and others have taken on some of that work now as well. Speaker 2 00:42:47 Other universities have signed, signed up to it, signed a ledge. Um, so I think we're taking a step forward in the right direction. Um, people see people graduating. They say, Well, they can do it, so why can't I? Uh, and they, they want to, they want to be educated and want to one, I mean, there's a lot of gyps, Andros that work in mainstream jobs who won't identify. And I, I know that, that we get a lot of calls here because we run report races in G rt, which is a third party reporting service. Um, and we get a lot of calls here from people actually working in companies where they've heard in the tea rooms or whatever slurs about gypsies and travelers, or if Gypsy and Travelers come in to buy products, um, to buy materials or things like that, they'd hear them talking about them. Speaker 2 00:43:48 Or I know one young girl that worked in a hotel told us that she had a terrible experience with, um, every time Gyps and Travelers a book into the hotel, it'd be put on the system as our friends are here today. That's what they put down as our friends, so the internal internet. So people would know that there was gypsy travelers in there and in the hotel. And she said that, how that made her feel. She said, I couldn't, I wanted to come out and say, Well, actually I'm a gyps traveler, but I just couldn't. She said, because I knew I'd either have to leave the job or I was gonna be sicked, I'd be outta there. Um, so it is that kind of thing for people. Uh, and I think that's why a lot of gypsy travelers are self-employed, um, and do their own, their own kind of work, have their own businesses, uh, because there's still that, uh, prejudice and even within mainstream employment. Speaker 1 00:44:53 I, I was thinking just a moment ago of the ponton situation mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, but actually that strikes me as being what you were talking about as being far more insidious. Um, Speaker 2 00:45:09 Yeah. Speaker 1 00:45:10 That somebody has to hide who they are. Speaker 2 00:45:13 Yeah. And listen and listen to, uh, what's been said about their community and kind of take that in, be able to do their job. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:45:25 Yeah. Speaker 2 00:45:26 A lot of people, you know, digital exclusion is another thing that's, uh, an awful, um, issue within the community are dig, digital literacy. A lot of people can't read or write. So all the systems that are kind of put in place today, um, they're geared at, you have to, they're digital. So even, for instance, benefits, uh, universal credit, you have an online journal. You have to upload to an online journal. If you can't, you can't read and write, you can't do that. Um, so we had one client that got ourself into a lot of debt because it was Joan Covid. Um, there was no, uh, job centers open or none of this. And they were expecting people to upload documents, what they couldn't do. Uh, and ordinarily they'd come in here for help or they'd go to a job center and, um, get it done. Speaker 2 00:46:26 But, uh, this particular person couldn't upload these documents. She got herself into thousands of hands worth of debt. And, um, and it took us like months to unravel all of that and unpack it and to see why she had been getting herself into this debt. And it was because that she couldn't upload these documents to her journal. So her housing benefit was stopped and, and she just didn't know what to do. The woman, she was in awful way, she didn't know what to do. So it took us a while, but we got it sorted out in the end. So that was one person. But how many more are falling through the net that, uh, are not coming to us or not coming to other? How many more that we don't know about is falling through the net of that. Speaker 1 00:47:20 So what would you like to see happen in the future? Speaker 2 00:47:23 Of course, I'd love to <laugh>. I would love if there was no, uh, prejudice or no hate. Um, but, uh, that's unrealistic. There's always gonna be somebody out there that doesn't like somebody or other, not just gypsies and travelers. It doesn't just happen for us. It happens for lots of different people. Um, in a perfect world, that would be lovely if that could happen, but, uh, I don't think that's gonna happen anytime soon or in my lifetime. So we just chip away and plow on. We have no, uh, there's no, no other way of, um, doing it. You have to support people and you have to, Whoever comes to us, we try not to turn anyone away. So whoever comes to us for support, we, we get people coming from outside Shire, and sometimes we're only, uh, funded for Shire and surrounding areas, but we do get people from down the country, other places that phone us up. And we try very hard to give them whatever support and advice that we can. And if we can't, we, we'll signpost them to other people. But, uh, we want to ensure that, uh, people are supported and have somewhere to go to if they need help. Speaker 1 00:48:45 And what keeps you going? Speaker 2 00:48:50 I suppose it's just, uh, knowing that these inequalities exist and sometimes, um, being upset. You can be upset, you can be angry about it, or you can, but your, um, yourself into this kind of work and try and support and help the people it's happened to. Speaker 1 00:49:11 Can you be optimistic for the Speaker 2 00:49:13 Future? Definitely. Um, if our future is in the hands of our young people, I am very optimistic for the future because there's so many young people coming up, um, so many young activists now that are, want to change things for, for their, for their families and for, for their self and their families. Um, so I think we can be optimistic, um, and hope that things will change for, for the younger generations. Speaker 1 00:49:50 Technology's a double ledged thing on that, isn't it? Speaker 2 00:49:52 Definitely. It has a pro, it's pros and cons technology. Um, I think it's, uh, marvelous how young people can, um, are so internet savvy now, and, um, they can turn phones inside out. They, they have, uh, great opportunities today to learn and to, um, actually to teach themselves as well, even if they're not in, um, a school environment. But to, to teach ourselves some of these, uh, which we didn't have years ago. But I still feel that there's an awful lot of pressure on young people today. There's more pressure than even though we had, um, not as much, um, material things as they have today, uh, and probably a harder life years ago. Young people today have a lot of pressure put on their shoulders, um, to fit in to this modernized world. Speaker 1 00:51:00 And finally, uh, and it's a variation on the question I ask pretty much all my interviewees. Um, it's, What does being an Irish traveler mean to you? Speaker 2 00:51:11 Oh, I'm an Irish traveler, uh, born and br. Um, no matter where I live, where I go, uh, it's, it's in my dna. I'm, and I'm proud to be an Irish traveler with, I wouldn't, uh, have it any other way. And I think that, uh, we should be proud of who we are. We've, uh, been around for so long and we've went through such hardships and we've adapted and survived through it all. And I suppose whatever's drawn at us, we, we have to adapt to it and we learn how to adapt it. Speaker 1 00:51:57 You've been listening to the Plastic Podcasts with me, Doug Davan and my guest, Josephine No Driscoll. The plastic pedestal was provided by John Lee and music by Jack dva. Find [email protected] Email us at the plastic [email protected] or followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The plastic podcasts are supported using public funding by Arabs Council England.

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