Sunday 23 October 2016

'What happened to those victims was an Irish shame'

Actor Michael Collins of Glenroe fame pictured at The Glenamuck Rd Candle Lit Vigil last night.
Actor Michael Collins of Glenroe fame pictured at The Glenamuck Rd Candle Lit Vigil last night.

Actor and writer Michael Collins, who shot to fame as Johnny Connors in Glenroe, has described the Carrickmines fire as a tragedy 50 years in the making.

He has just finished a run of his play Ireland Shed a Tear? which fictionalises the aftermath of the blaze that killed 10 people.

The play focuses on a family who meet with council executives to have their site audited for fire safety - the family are hopeful that the problems on their site will be addressed. But instead they are evicted.

Starring Michael and his son Johnny (11), the play has been met with standing ovations and was inspired by the national response to the devastating events of last October.

"What happened in Carrickmines was a tragedy waiting to happen for 50 years," he said, referring to problems with Traveller accommodation.

Following the blaze, Michael said he hoped that Ireland's attitude to the Travelling community would change.

"Everyone was so saddened - the flags were flying at half mast, our politicians came out - I actually believed there was a turning point. And three days later the turning point just collapsed and the underbelly of racism raised its ugly head," he told the Herald.

"I felt so saddened about that, the social media was terrible, the radio programmes allowing people to come on and says things about Travellers which they didn't have to, and then to go to Wexford town (for the funeral) and feeling like we didn't belong."

Some businesses and pubs in Wexford town closed on the day of the funeral of members of the Connors family. Members of the Lynch and Gilbert family had been laid to rest days earlier in Bray.

"There's a line in the show that I never felt so alien, alien in my own country. I never felt so angry in my life coming out of Wexford," Michael said. "The respect in Bray was brilliant. The local people worked with the Travellers shoulder to shoulder that day. When we buried our dead we went in and had a cup of tea and a sandwich and went home.

"These victims and families shouldn't be forgotten, and the way they were treated by Irish society and the Government is an Irish shame. I would call it an Irish shame," he said.

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