Thursday, 20 October 2011

Dale Farm: the end of the story

Update Thursday, below:

Some of the more 'moderate' comments on the Daily Mail 'debate' page:

"send in the water cannon. many of them haven't had a wash for ages."

"ship 'em out once and for all & send 'em back to Ireland."

A statement from Amnesty International said yesterday that Basildon Council was conducting a “forced eviction on an unprecedented scale” at Dale Farm.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“Some commentators and politicians have portrayed the enforcement action by Basildon Council at Dale Farm as a site clearance, and not a forced eviction. This is misleading and inaccurate.

“What is in its early stages at Dale Farm is a forced eviction which will leave several families homeless. The families being evicted have been failed by the Council at every turn; in inadequate consultation, insufficient negotiation and in the woeful failure to offer culturally adequate alternative accommodation, to which they are entitled.

“The sad reality is that we are witnessing a forced eviction on an unprecedented scale in the UK. The eviction at Dale Farm is not necessary and represents a failure on the Council’s part to comply with international human rights standards on housing and evictions.

“The use of force by police and bailiffs must always be strictly proportionate, necessary, appropriate and an absolute last resort.”

Here is a view of the human impact on the residents of Dale Farm:

From the Independent Catholic News:

"Father Dan Mason, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Good Council church in nearby Wickford, spoke with ICN this evening.

He said: "I was on the site this afternoon to visit my parishioners and see how they were doing. It was very traumatic. One woman (Norah)was injured. They told me she was pushed against a wall and kicked. She sustained a back injury. That's what I was told. She was taken to hospital but they couldn't take her because there were no beds. Its all completely surreal. I know that site so well.The families are so hospitable. We sat in a caravan having a cup of tea. It felt surreal. Seeing riot police everywhere, helicopters, protesters, it looked like a war zone.

Fr Dan said Bishop Thomas MacMahon and other church leaders have been very supportive of the Dale Farm families. He said: "We've agreed with other churches that our halls will be available - to provide a safe space especially for the elderly and children. But I don't know if they will take it up. They are afraid of being separated. I told them we are always here for them. One woman said to me: 'We rely on the church'.

When news came that the eviction was going to go ahead, on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the parish began a Novena, which ended on the Feast of Our Lady of Good Council, (sic) Fr Dan said. There is a grotto to Our Lady outside the church..

Fr Dan said he was concerned that because the appeals have gone on for so long, the police are being so heavy handed. He said: "These people have nowhere to go. Many of them came here after they were evicted from other places from Boreham Wood. "

In case readers don't know, Borehamwood is just on the edge of Barnet. As Barnet refused, for 26 years, in blatant defiance of the law, to provide any pitch for travelling people, this sort of neighbouring site would have been the only refuge for such people locally. (And of course please note there was no big mouthed Tory MP or councillor prepared to condemn our council for law breaking as easily as they do the gypsy and travelling communities trying to protect their homes).

In 2005, the gypsy traveller site in Borehamwood, Twin Oaks, was cleared by the same eviction 'specialists', Constant and Co.

According to the Advocacy website :

"Twin Oaks, at Borehamwood, location of the Elstree film studios, consisted of just twelve small plots and was the subject of repeated planning appeals and negotiations. These were broken off unilaterally by Hertsmere District Council which went instead for the physical force option. The day deliberately chosen was that on which Mrs Ann Egan, a wheelchair invalid, was due to go to hospital. Her chalet was torn down over her head and her two wheelchairs crushed. A pregnant mother was thrown on the ground and an elderly man kicked and beaten."

In April 2010 a letter was sent to the Essex police authority by representatives of the Dale Farm Community in which reference is made to allegations regarding previous evictions:

"These actions, including an eviction the same month at Twin Oaks, near Borehamwood, by Hertsmere Council, drew criticism from the High Court and the Council of Europe, which condemned the employment of Constant and Co. as inappropriate and called for a review of the employment of such companies in this field of work.

A report prepared by the Council of Europe in 2006 concerning Roma and Travellers states that “evictions have become worse since the coming into prominence of the private bailiff company, Constant & Co. Mr Constant's firm has earned millions of euro moving families on and carrying out large scale evictions from land owned by Gypsies. One example was the eviction by Constant for Chelmsford Borough Council of 20 families from their own Meadowlands Caravan Park, in January 2004. In the course of this, conducted with the help of riot police, Kathy Buckland's mobile-home was burned, another caravan burned, much property needlessly destroyed”

You might be interested to know there is, or was, a tradition that when a gypsy child is buried, he or she is buried on the edge of a traditional stopping place, with an acorn in each hand, and from the acorns grow twin oaks, a marker for grieving parents to return to. There is a song and a poem referring to this custom written by Martin Taylor, a musician related, like Mrs Angry, to the travelling Stewart family.


The remaining travellers left Dale Farm today.

As they went, a reporter asked Tony Ball, the Tory leader of Basildon Council, what had been acheived, in his view, other than the purchase of a former scrapyard for the sum of around £20 million of tax payers' money? 'Fairness', was the answer.


It seems to me that the only ones to gain from the bloody, bitter end to the Dale Farm are the bailiffs, the company Constant & Co, who make a very nice profit out of throwing people out of their homes.

On their website, this company boasts of its reputation and successes in dealing with evictions. It even has a section dealing with 'Travellers and Squatters', as if they were naturally both inherently criminal categories of people. The company advises:

"Court proceedings involve delay that can be extremely expensive. An occupation over several weeks at a trading site or shopping mall can result in a disastrous loss of business, but there is a fast alternative course of action that we utilise regularly and very successfully for many high-profile clients. Our bailiffs take legal possession of an occupied site usually within 24 to 48 hours of being instructed. Police are informed and called upon as necessary. We arrange attendance of tow trucks and cleansing contractors if needed."

Perhpas that should read ethnic cleansing contractors? And as the company says - why bother with the process of the law, and court proceedings, when the boys from Constant & Co can sort it out for you? See above for some references from satisfied customers.

We can only suppose that at one point council leader Mr Ball imagined that taking a hard line with the travellers at Dale Farm would be a way of endearing his administration to the voters of Basildon. To be fair, finding a scapegoat on which to focus the latent bigotry and animosity of the electorate has usually worked in the past, with a certain type of voter.

Unfortunately, the Dale Farm story just grew and grew, and not in the direction Mr Ball might have forseen. This particular eviction, and all the media focus which has been directed on the story, has proved to be of far more significance than perhaps anyone could have predicted. There may even be, at last, the beginning of a wider recognition that here, in Britain in the twenty first century, we still have the capacity for institutionalised persecution of people on the margins of our society, and a shocking tolerance of the free expression of open racism towards an ethnic minority group, and that it is an evil thing, and something we have to eradicate.

Well, that is what I would like to think, anyway. But then I am, despite all appearances to the contrary, an eternal optimist.


zwanzig20 said...

What a load of rose- tinted bespectacled tosh. Planning laws are there for a reason and can't be ignored for a particular group of people. The law is the law and people on half the site at Dale Farm knew they were breaking it 10 years ago and have known it ever since. I seem to remember when the broken barnet blog was first set up, there was no such qualms about making a family < your neighbours> homeless because they were a nuisance-- in many of the cases you described on your blog, not even the law was broken but you still campaigned relentlessly until they were evicted. Was this bullying of the have vs the have nots?!? A bit of NIMBYIsm? Ethnic Cleansing?

Mrs Angry said...

well thank you, Herr Zwanzig, for your refreshingly 'robust' comment. I am thrilled to see you remember the early days of this blog. In fact my neighbours were a violent, drug abusing, relentlessly intimidating household placed in a rat infested slum standard house by our own Barnet Council. They made our lives hell for a year and a half. Some of the household had criminal records, and the police were called regularly to deal with their behaviour. Eventually one member was served with a harrassment order. They were not evicted: they were found a very nice house which they were delighted with, all supported by you and me. Contrast this household if you like with the traveller family who lived across the road and were absolutely no trouble whatsoever, despite the animosity shown to them by many local people. They worked hard, paid their own rent, were tidy, quite and polite. Sorry to challenge your prejudices, and let me remind you also that the law which you so respect was broken for nearly three decades by Barnet Council because they refused to comply with legislation requiring the provision of a few pitches for gypsies and travellers. I would like to think you were outraged at this sustained defiance of the law, but I imagine that would not be the case.
I see from your profile that you have moved from Barnet to St Albans, and I can only hope that you were escorted there by a tow truck and a retinue of bailiffs, cheered on by your former neighbours.

Anonymous said...

Oh they made your lives hell, which we should accept - but we should dismiss the claims by Crays Hill locals who would say the same?

Criminal records eh? Rather like Richard Sheridan? Or for less serious crimes than him?

Ethnic cleansing - that leaves the residents next door, or doesn't object if the Dale Farm residents moveed next door? That's just illogical exaggeration to describe this site clearance as EC !

Mrs Angry said...

'thats0not0me' I'm afraid the logic of your own statement does not bear examination. The residents of Dale Farm were evicted not because of any alleged antisocial behaviour, but because one half of the settlement was built without the correct planning permission. In any other case, retrospective permission would have been given, or some compromise reached. In this case the local council was pandering to the latent prejudices of local voters by sweeping hundreds of travellers out of their homes, at a cost which simply cannot be defended on any rational basis. The repulsive opinons expressed about travellers based on the very fact they are travellers is simply racism. In any group of people there are good people, bad people, and everything in between: if you and others like you make such sweeping generalisations about a whole community you simply betray your own ignorance and deep rooted prejudice.