What's your experience with Irish travelers

Hesse : Irish land drivers are wreaking havoc

Every year they drive through Hessen. Her ancestors are said to have been blacksmiths, cattle dealers, weavers, shoemakers, scissors grinders, chimney sweeps, harvesters and fortune tellers. No, no “gypsies”, because that's not how the travelers from Ireland want to be called. Today, instead of carriages, they drive the most modern mobile homes, pulled by horsepower on four wheels. They are considered mostly devout Catholics and travel annually from the British Isles through Europe - traditionally also through the Rhineland / Hesse region in mid-August.

Travelers, also known as “pavees” or “tinkers”, are the descendants of wandering traders who used to make their living in Ireland and Great Britain as peddlers, tinkers and horse traders. The Tinkers speak their own language, a mix of Irish-Gaelic, English and Romance terms. Few of today's travelers are said to have a steady income; the vast majority apparently live off welfare support. Around 30,000 of the predominantly strictly Catholic travelers still live in Ireland today, a few thousand also in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the USA. Attempts to make them settle down are only partially successful, according to the KNA news agency. Moving from place to place is part of their culture. According to KNA, the majority of Travelers are under 25 years of age; only one in five is older than 50 years.

In recent years there have been repeated complaints from residents in Germany and difficulties with the regulatory office - for example in Minden, Cologne, Bonn, the pilgrimage site in the Lower Rhine region of Kevelaer and Mainz.

This year, too, there were massive complaints from residents. The traveling people had settled with around 100 caravans and around 600 men, women and children on a meadow in Ginsheim-Gustavsburg near Groß Gerau.

“We're here to have sex with German women and to drink all our beer,” a young “Pavee” told a camera team from his BMW. The mood in the camp seemed exuberant. "This is a huge sex convention," said an older Irishman, visibly drunk, to the same camera team. The pictures showed the barely clad - Irish - women and drunken travelers. Then they showed the boy how to screech the tires of his BMW.

At a petrol station next to the campsite, they weren't so happy about the annual visit. Of course there is more income, but the travelers would also leave a lot of rubbish behind, simply take ice from the cooling shelves and consume it, throw empty cans in the car wash and just steal a lot. Local residents report that their private properties are "misused as toilets". A 43-year-old Irishman was arrested on Friday for a Nazi salute. An investigation is underway against him.

Ginsheim-Gustavsburg's mayor Thies Puttins-von Trotha was happy that the travelers are gone again. For the next year he wants to go on a confrontation: Maybe there are farmers who want to deposit their dung at the campsite, he told a television station. On Facebook he spoke of a "state of emergency". The travelers' camp in the city of 16,000 inhabitants had to be cleared up: a lot of rubbish, a discarded bicycle and an old chair, countless empty bottles and crates of beer. It would have looked like a rock festival, said the mayor.

Hessen wants to develop an early warning system

Many volunteers helped clean up the chaos. A resident was happy about the generous deposit. “That’s definitely ten euros,” he told a local newspaper. Von Trotha posted photos of the rubbish-free meadow on Facebook. For the next year he has learned to set up even more smaller trash cans for the travelers. The large containers were used well, but filled up very quickly.

In addition, they were lucky this year, said the mayor. Last year, neighboring communities had to deal with contaminated soil due to oil changes in open areas. It is difficult to predict where exactly the travelers will camp. “Of course we cannot lock off every parking space. But we will keep our eyes open and maintain contact with other communities ”. It should be a kind of early warning system. This year the travelers left earlier than expected. Also because they were followed by the police "at every turn," as the mayor suspects. When they left, they knocked over the Dixi toilets that were set up especially for them.

After all, the city was able to collect a "four-figure amount" from the traveler families. However, it was not 10,000 euros, as the travelers said to the citizens, said Puttnins-von Trotha. In any case, the money is not enough to pay the police's cleaning and deployment costs. As stated in a police report from the South Hesse police force, the city of Ginsheim-Gustavsburg had decided to allow travelers to use the site against payment of a deposit until Wednesday morning.

"Heavily drunk and very aggressive"

The police also had to intervene on a campsite near the Hessian Hofheim. The Irish registered as campsite guests as normal. The complaints did not come until the night they went on a pub crawl in neighboring Kelkheim. The police were there to show their presence and gave a speech to the campers. These were "considerably drunk and very aggressive". There have been some complaints about property damage and bill cheating. Disputes with local residents have also been reported.

The Hessian police said no criminal charges had been received so far. The hosts and the operator of the campsite would be very happy about the additional income. The campsite operator is responsible for disposing of rubbish and has agreed to advance payment with the guests every year. Camping site operator Jörg Steimer was calm. He said that he had “welcomed the traveling people” for 30 years. So far there have never been any major problems. There are black sheep as everywhere, but his experiences with the travelers are positive.

In May the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR) accused Ireland of poor accommodation for travelers; the government in Dublin is violating the European Social Charter. The European Roma Rights Center and the Irish Association of Travelers lodged a complaint with the Council of Europe in 2013. According to the latest surveys by the Irish Ministry of the Environment, in 2015 more than 530 traveler families lived in illegal parking spaces. In 2013 there were 361 families, the following year 445.

It is not known exactly where the rural drivers drove from Hessen. The police said they had spread out on the highways and were probably "on their way home" - referring to the British Isles. They are coming back to Hessen next year. (with dpa)

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