McNamara on Travellers

From this week’s Irish World:

Labour MP Kevin McNamara has defended himself against critics of his claim that Conservative policy on Gypsies and Travellers has ‘the whiff of the gas chamber about it.’

The retiring MP for Hull North made the claim after the Conservatives announced plans to scrap the Human Rights Act in a bid to clamp down on Traveller encampments.

Tory leader Michael Howard has dismissed the charge as ‘vulgar abuse.’

However, Mr McNamara stood by his comments last week, rejecting claims that he was being insensitive to Mr Howard’s Jewish background, and pointing out that Gypsies had also suffered during the holocaust.

“I do not apologise for it,” he said. “The insensitivity lies not with what I said but with those cannot equate what happened to their community with what happened to those of another race under similar appalling circumstances.”

And from my opinion column:

Among the MPs retiring at this election is Hull North’s Kevin McNamara, who has for forty years been a champion of the Irish community in Parliament.

At his final engagement last week, he recalled one of the very first events he attended in the House, a meeting of the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster, and the fight to get civil rights and fair access to housing and jobs for nationalists in Northern Ireland.

As he evoked this memory, it was clear that Mr McNamara’s parliamentary career was ending as it had begun, because the issues he was recalling were, in a different context, the very same ones that his final meeting was set to address.

The event at which he was speaking was a meeting of the Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition, called to celebrate World Roma Day.







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