An Open letter to the Ilkley Gazette

Dear Sir, Your recent article ‘Barrier plan to prevent ‘invasion’ by gypsies’ and its accompanying editorial managed to combine the worst sort of smear and innuendo with plainly racist epithets. It is clear from the body of the article that there is no evidence to substantiate any of your claims. Instead of producing evidence through interviews, you rely on the bland statement that “the gypsies are…accused of leaving mounds of rubbish and threatening people.” The latter is a serious allegation, yet you produce no one to back it up (if such threats were made, it would be a matter for the police), and certainly no one from the Roma community is allowed to defend themselves. There has been no other article this year suggesting that this community has caused any damage. Looking through last year’s papers, there was again only one article on them, and it provided no further evidence. Indeed, when a group of travellers later in the year caused trouble with their dogs, councillors were at pains to differentiate them from ‘our regular gypsies’. There are problems in Ilkley. Problems with some disorder on the main streets on weekend nights, problems with youth gangs at the station, problems with dumping of rubbish by our regular visitors at holiday weekends (compared to which the bagged up rubbish left by the Roma is small fry). Yet none of these are attributable to this community. Unless, of course, you have evidence. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this Roma commuity camping in this area (which they have been doing for far longer than many of those complaining have lived in Ilkley), the solution is surely not a campaign of vituperation and hatred against them (never mind the three-foot high reinforced construction that is being suggest, and which will be a year-long eyesore). The Roma are protected as a community by the Race Relations Act. The use, in your article, of terms such as ‘gypsy nightmare’ is a clear breach of the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice (Clause 12:1) as well as the NUJ Code of Conduct. I would also suggest that it represents a clear ‘incitement to racial hatred’ under the Public Order Act 1986. Just replace the word ‘gypsies’ with the word ‘asians’ and you have a BNP leaflet. I would assume an apology is in order.