Cllr Michael Crowe and Travellers: anatomy of an apology


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Cllr Michael Crowe and Travellers: anatomy of an apology Cllr Michael Crowe and Travellers: anatomy of an apology

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

At 8.58am on the morning of Monday, September 23, former mayor Michael John Crowe issued a statement to his supporters, and to some media, on WhatsApp.

In it, the City East councillor criticised Galway City Council for buying a house in Renmore for Traveller-specific accommodation.

Traveller culture, he said, was “not conducive” to “living in with most settled cultures”.

Mixing Traveller and settled people “regularly leads to confrontation and general uneasiness”, he added. Those were among the political dog whistles in the statement.

Citing his capacity as chairman of the soccer club in Renmore, and someone who was involved with St James’ GAA Club, he said that putting Travellers into the house was “unwelcome” and not in the “best interest” of Renmore.

The statement flagged that he would be on local radio to discuss the issue. “If you wish to comment while I’m on you can text 53995,” he said.

After 9.25am, he went on local radio, and in a one-on-one interview, elaborated and doubled-down on comments he’d made in the statement.

Galway Traveller Movement condemned MJ’s statement and interview, and said Travellers were “hurt and upset” by the inflammatory anti-Traveller remarks that “brought us back decades in the fight for equality”.

Twitter did as Twitter does: it erupted. There was outrage for 24, maybe 48 hours on the social media platform, with Travellers, politicians and others all condemning Mike Crowe.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy even raised the matter in Dáil Éireann with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

MJ stood firm though. In an interview with this newspaper on Thursday morning, he was more conciliatory – he was prepared to meet with Travellers and he wanted an ‘open and frank’ discussion –  but he did not and was not, at that point, prepared to withdraw his comments.

He believed what he had said was “correct and right”. . . I don’t believe it is anti-this or anti-that”, he said

That was just before 11am last Thursday.

Five hours later, at 4.26pm, MJ Crowe’s Twitter account said: “I would like to offer a sincere genuine apology to all members of the Travelling community for my comments earlier this week. There is cut and thrust in politics but there is no room for the broad ranging sweeping generalisations I made about Travellers. For that, I am sorry.”

In two follow-up tweets, he said he was making no excuses. “I’m simply apologising; I was wrong,” he added.

He then returned to the airwaves last Friday morning, and issued another apology.

Only Michael John Crowe knows whether he meant the apology. It’s up to Travellers to decide to accept it, or not.

Everyone else wonders what happened between 8.58am on Monday and 4.26pm on Thursday that made MJ Crowe change his stance; and what in particular occurred between 11am and 4pm Thursday, that resulted in a volte face.

An intervention from FF HQ, perhaps? In fairness, many in Fianna Fáil like Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív have worked tirelessly – and quietly – to improve the lot of Travellers.

City Central Councillor Imelda Byrne works with Traveller students in her day job at University of Galway. City West City Councillor John Connolly is a big supporter of the boxing club in Westside that includes many Traveller children.

But cynics suggest that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who is a decent man, wanted this controversy to ‘go away’ and not overshadow the party’s 80th Árd Fheis in the RDS Dublin last weekend.

This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the October 7 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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