A little Irish girl has written to British Prime Minister David Cameron for help as a Traveler community fight eviction from their long term caravan site near London.
Eileen O’Brien is one of over a hundred predominantly Irish children facing eviction when bailiffs arrive at the Dale Farm site on Monday.
The Travelers, backed by an influx of supporters to the site in recent days, are preparing to resist the eviction forced by the local council in a row over planning for the site.
Little Eileen has gone to the highest office in the land in her bid to prevent her family’s removal from the only home she knows.
In a hand-written note to Prime Minister Cameroon, she said: “I was living here since I was one and I’m 11 now. It’ll be really hard leaving.”
One of a hundred children from the camp who attend the local national school, Eileen’s fate is attracting huge interest in Britain.
One nine-year-old boy told reporters: “The teachers at school keep crying. My aunties keep crying. We’ll just have to hide when the bailiffs come. Then they’ll go away again and leave us be.”
Supporters have flooded in to the site to assist the 50 families who face eviction on Monday.
A banner at the entrance to Dale Farm reads ‘No Ethnic Cleansing’ while children have been piling up car tires at the entrance.
Director of the Irish Traveler Movement in Britain, Yvonne MacNamara said: “This eviction will rip them away from their friends, their education and possibly from their future prospects.”
Traveler Mamie Slattery said the families appreciate the support that has come their way ahead of the eviction attempt.
“I have lived through evictions before and they can be brutal,” said the 57-year-old Slattery.
“I am staying put while they break the windows around me, because where can I go?”
Young mother Elby Culligan denied that some families had already left Dale Farm as the police presence outside grows by the day.
“No one has left,” said the 28-year-old Culligan. “This is a close community, linked by family, my first, second and third cousins, and we want to look out for each other.
“Nobody puts their mothers in homes here. Where else in the country can people say they can leave their doors and windows open? We can. This is the sort of community they want to break up.”
Second generation Irish, Culligan compared her community’s plight to that of Native Americans in the USA.
She added: “Most of us were born in Britain, but we seem to have no rights at all. It feels like we are the American Indians in a cowboy film.
“Instead of ‘don’t go near those Indians, they’ll scalp you,’ it’s ‘don’t go near those gypsies, they’ll steal everything you’ve got and threaten your way of life.
“We are called gypos and labeled. I have been my whole life. People out there want to dig a hole and put us in it and fill it over.
“For generations we have heard the same song replayed and replayed: ‘no gypsies here.’ The same abuse, the same bullying. Maybe they can break us up, but they can’t take away our heritage.”
Supporter Jessica Biggs spoke of her concern for the kids living in the site. “It’s the kids who are really having the worst of it,” said Biggs.
“Their parents are having sleepless nights and a lot of the children are having nightmares about bailiffs carrying them away. One little boy was refusing to go to school in case his mum wasn’t there when he got back.
“The strain is awful to see. I really feel for them. The legal situation is really complicated, and people don’t know which of the mobile homes are OK and which are not.
“It’s not as if they can all just go and park on the legal site either, as there is a limit to how many caravans can be on each plot.”
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