Tipperary Rural Travellers Project would like to publicly state their support for the Reilly family in thewake of the recent court judgement. We cannot even begin to imagine the pain and trauma thefamily has endured, and we want also to commend the Reilly women in the courage, determination and humanity they have shown under such terrible circumstances.

We sincerely hope that their courage can provide some inspiration and encouragement for others who suffer abuse and trauma from such circumstances.We can do no more than stand by the statement made by the family (below):

We have all been living through our own personal hell.We are relieved that justice has been done, and that the crimes committed against us as children areno longer hidden or denied by anybody.No more needs to be said about the hell we have lived through and somehow survived. But moredoes need to be said about how it was allowed to happen.

We are left with many questions, and we need answers.Where were the different parts of the state when we as vulnerable and defenceless children needed protection?How could schools, social workers, medical professionals and all the other people who had a so-called ‘duty of care’ turn their back and look the other way – time after time as the evidence was piling up and hitting them in the face?

We were vulnerable Traveller children, forced to live on the edges of Irish society, already looked down, discriminated against and denied our basic human rights. Does this denial of our rights extend also to the right to protection and welfare as children?Would the same state neglect, the same agreement that nobody should say a word, the same ability to turn the blind eye have been evident if this had been a respected settled family in Ireland?

God knows we know that what we had to suffer could have happened in any family in Ireland. But we also know that the response of the state would have been different and there is a good chance that much of the suffering could have been spared or avoided.

We are asking you not to ask ‘how could this happen in a Traveller family’. Do ask ‘how could this happen in any family? But also ask ‘were we not protected because we were Travellers?’

The questions being asked by the family here need to be taken as more than just a source for mediasound-bites.

As a local Traveller-run project, we fully support the appeal being made by the family,and call for a full investigation into the failure of a range of statutory agencies to investigate orintervene in this situation as it developed over a twenty-three year period.

In support of the family,we want to know how, and most importantly why this happened.We are asking people to support our call, and the call of the family, to initiate an independent investigation into the state engagement in this case over the years. We fully endorse the call for all
children and vulnerable adults, whether from the settled or Traveller community, to come forwardand speak out where this is happening. But we also want to be sure that the state response is botheffective and equitable.

Photograph by Tom Honan @IrishTimes