'inhumane’ | 

Protests at Glastonbury Festival against bill that will affect the Irish travelling community

Martin Ward said the bill criminalises their nomadic lifestyle

Pic: Martin Ward

Martin Ward with his uncle Paddy Doherty

Traveller Pride for Martin Ward at Glastonbury

Clodagh Meaney

Irish Traveller Martin Ward is protesting at Glastonbury Festival this weekend against an “inhumane” bill that will affect the travelling community in the United Kingdom.

“I came to Glastonbury to spread awareness about a new policing bill. [It’s] gonna affect every gypsy and traveller on the planet,” he told sundayworld.com

The Police, Crime, Sentencing And Courts Act 2022 will make it an offence to “fail to leave land or remove property without reasonable excuse when asked to do so” if the person or persons have “caused, or are likely to cause, significant damage, disruption, or distress.”

The maximum penalty will be three months’ imprisonment or a fine of (£2,500), or both.

While the Home Office say that they expect enforcement action will not be based on race or ethnicity, the Traveller community do not feel the same way.

Martin says the bill criminalises their traditional nomadic lifestyle.

“I believe there're basically stripping us of our human rights and trying to take away what we've done for hundreds and thousands of years across this nation and this country.”

“I don't think it's fair, um, for the gypsies and travellers to be treated in such a way,” he said.

“It's not like we've been here for five years or 10 years. We've been here for decades. Our ancestors fought in the war for this country. We've got family and first cousins now from Leicester and Dublin and they're in the army over here, fighting for this country.”

Traveller Pride for Martin Ward at Glastonbury

Taking to the stage at the festival which holds 210,000 people, Ward opened up about the tragic suicide rates among the travelling community as he asked the crowd to support them in opposing the bill.

“I never, ever, ever thought they would pass the law like that in England.”

“Every other community doesn't seem to be getting criticized and having inhumane laws put against them. But I just don't know where we belong anymore,” he explained.

“Boris Johnson and Pretti Patel just need to know they are gonna be responsible for every bit of damage that is caused for this community.”

“For every child that gets hurt when the police come in to move them out.”

“Every parent that's arrested Pretti Patel and Boris Johnson will be held responsible for them in this country.”

The TikTok star said that should the bill come into effect next week, members of the travelling community will descend on London in protest.

“We will bring London to a complete standstill, that's exactly what we will do.”

“Honestly, we're ready. Like every community, we'd all stand in front of our families and our children and we'd fight for what’s right, and that's exactly what we're gonna do as a community.”

“We're all gonna stand together. New age travellers, gypsies, Irish travellers, we're all gonna stand as one because that's what we are.”

Martin said when he came off stage he realised the crowd were in tears at his passionate speech.

“I walked out into the crowd and all these people was crying at us.”

“I thought ‘what have I done?’”

“That's what sort of feeds me to know,” he said.

“I'm doing what's right. I'm not going against anyone and I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm just being me and I'm embracing me. That's all I'm doing.”

Ward, who is a nephew of Paddy Doherty, also said that jokes about the gay and travelling communities, like that told by Jimmy Carr in his Netflix special, normalise racism against travellers.

Martin Ward with his uncle Paddy Doherty

“Jimmy Carr has basically put in front of everyone it's okay to be racist against gypsies and travellers.”

“How desperate could you be as a comedian to joke about gay and disabled gypsies and travellers that was murdered in the Holocaust.

“To me that was just like, you could have never, ever, ever went any lower than Jimmy Carr did when he said what he said honestly.”

“When he turned around and said at the start of that video, what really done me in, when he turned around and said, ‘everybody get strapped in, this should be a career ender’.”

“Now that done it for me, he knew what he was doing before he went there and done it.”

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