Dale farm: Writing on the Shield Wall?

Watching with interest the evictions at Dale farm this week as illegally settled travellers were asked politely and then more forcefully to move along, I found myself asking myself two questions I’m sure many of you share: Why should the ruling of a court be ignored if it isn’t in your favour and does this give you the right to resist the court by force?

I refer of course to the recent High Court ruling that Basildon Council was fully within the law in evicting the travellers at the Dale Farm site for failing to abide by planning laws. If you’ve been anywhere near a news source in the past week, I’m pretty certain you’ll also know about the state of perpetual siege warfare now in effect: barricades, petrol bombs, stones, riot police etc. I can somewhat understand the travellers rather paradoxical wish to remain at Dale Farm but, in my opinion, to seek a court solution yourself to allow you to stay, and then ignore the legal system if it doesn’t give you the result you want is a rather immature attitude, not to mention downright rude to the people who paid for your legal case. I could seek a high court injunction against any number of things (Jedward, for example) but I know that if I take the legal route and lose, it is par for the course I accept that ruling, as I would expect my opponent to accept if I won the case. Anyone who knows the legal system or has even watched an episode of a legal drama will tell you that precedents in law are binding to all participants, even if you lose. I’m sorry Dale Farm Travellers, but the law is quite clear on planning permission and you’d be the first to claim the law if Basildon Council decided to evict you anyway.

Also, forgive me, but surely travelling around is a precursor to being a traveller? It’s kinda in the name. Ok, it’s rather easy for me in my nice and confortable abode to come out on the side of the law, and some will accuse me of being ignorant to the root causes of the drama, but if we’re going to play the Traveller card here, Dale Farm, you do need to demonstrate an intent to travel. I can understand you’ve spent money building an extension on the side of your Bailey Pegasus & building a wall to encase your garden, but the law is the law. Kicking, screaming, throwing bricks and attacking the council won’t change this, and is more likely to turn public opinion against you in the short term, thus making it all the easier for Basildon council to evict you.

For me, also adding insult to injury here is that the cost to taxpayer of removing the travellers from the site is estimated to be at about £18 million pounds, and that’s the most conservative estimate I could find. Considering they have already received money for legal aid from tax-funded bodies, one has to ask the question on why, when the force of law is set so fully against them, they decide to persist. One may make the argument of the fact it has been 10 years since the travellers first settled on the site itself, but given Basildon Council and the Travellers have been involved in legal salvos for the duration of this time, first over protecting Green belt land, then planning permission, and finally illegal settlement of the site and calls for eviction, one must ask if the Travellers ever really expected the council to cease their attempts to evict them. Even the most liberal commentator will admit that allowing the Dale Farm Travellers to remain would set an untenable, and politically tricky, precedent that people can settle where they like regardless of planning laws.

Overall my message is as follows: I fully support the efforts to remove the Travellers from Dale Farm given the legal and compassionate ground has been fought and lost by them in the high courts. What I do hope however, is that the protestors at Dale Farm come to their senses and actually accept the writing is on the wall.

Give it up Dale Farm. Basildon Council has won. Anyway, the brilliant thing about being a traveller is the ability to travel! Go and see some of the other wonderful sites in Britain! I would highly recommend a visit to the South Coast or to the Gower Peninsular – there are plenty of caravan parks that you can legally live on!