I am seriously tired tonight. We’ve been on the go for more than twelve hours – much of the travelling on roads that make some of my regulars feel safe and comfortable!
Our first stop was for breakfast and it was a welcome stop. The restaurant had a small zoo and behind our table were the most colourful and noisy birds!
We travelled about 150km to the southern tip of the country and visited a lovely community. The setting was incredible. We were taken out on a boat to view the coastline and visit a beautiful island.
In another place I’m sure that would sound like holiday stuff, a boat trip along an incredible coastline with breathtaking views. Alas, as we’ve discovered more times than one would want this week, things are not as they seem.
The island we visited belongs to the people but has been taken over by wealthy interests who effectively banned the people from visiting the island. Likewise the coastline. The properties I photographed belong again to the wealthy and the poor people, our travellling companions, are forced backwards into ever decreasing circles where their homes and land are confined to the minimum. Even that, if the powers have their way, will be taken.
The sea front properties are, to all extents and purposes, holiday homes for the wealthy who visit on occasions. According to our locals they also seek to move backwards into the property of local people.
After a lengthy boat trip we came ashore and walked a rough path to a house and generous welcome. The roughness of the path was more than compensated for by the welcome of the people, a number now swelled by women, children, teenagers and men.
Some of the local women had prepared a banner to welcome us all. I can only imagine the time and effort that went into it. Later they presented it to Anna and Kevin the two Trocaire reps accompanying us from home.
We spent some hours with this group. They told us about harassment, intimidation and some had been imprisoned for “trespassing” on their own property. We met.some people who have been imprisoned for trying to develop a car park. People found guilty and had to sign on twice a month in a distant police station. They were not always able for the journey so their accuser had them thrown in prison. Out now but signing on in a farther away Police Station. If they fail to sign they must return immediately to prison.
A woman told us that about two months ago she was approached by a man who told her that her property had changed ownership. She did not accept this. A few weeks later another man arrived and began to take photographs When she asked why he told her the property was his. She did not accept this but he said if she did not leave freely, others (authorities possibly) would move her. He said she can take the harvest but after that the property will not be her’s. The harvest is in December. She told us she has no intention to leave her property and is ready for a fight.
The fight will be a legal one as, it seems to me, these are not violent or fighting people. They’re lucky to have legal assistance and are upskilling themselves in the area of human rights and their securing. Local radio helps them share this upskilling with others.
Trocaire in partnership with another agency has offered much support and counsel to this community.
As we prepared to leave two of the community sang for us. They sang two songs, the second celebrating one of the Community’s role as Minister of The Word.
We sang the Fields of Athenry for them and noted the similarity between the story they’d shared with us and the story behind the song.
It seems little has changed.