A member of the Irish travelling community who’s suffered years of often vicious abuse has taken on a new job helping victims of hate crime.
Martin Gallagher believes his own experiences will give him a unique insight when he’s helping other people who have been on the receiving end of cruel jibes and discrimination.
The 29-year-old has been appointed as the North Wales hate crime case worker and is based at the newly-opened Victim Help Centre in St Asaph.
The centre was established by the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick CB QC and provides an outreach service across North Wales.
It is a one stop shop for victims, that has brought together the support services of North Wales Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the former Victim Support organisation.
Martin will be providing support and guidance for people who are singled out for abuse because of their sexual orientation, race, disability, age or a host of other personal characteristics.
While the number of hate crimes in North Wales is relatively low with less than 400 being reported in a year, the impact on victims is often huge and can destroy their quality of life.
Martin, who is studying a Glyndwr University for a degree in youth community work, said: “I may have chosen to live in a house but I remain part of the Irish traveller community. It’s my heritage and it’s where I’m from.
“I don’t have an Irish accent, although most of my family do, but I still suffer from cruel and unfair discrimination and know the impact it can have.
“In the past I have been powerless to act and didn’t know how to challenge and effectively report discrimination when it occurred.
“I was born an Irish Traveller, that’s my ethnicity. I was actually born in London but lived for a few years on Paddy Doherty’s Travellers site at Queensferry, Flintshire.
“I started out studying engineering at college and imagine how I felt when the lecturer said one day we shouldn’t leave copper lying about as the ‘Pikeys’ from Queensferry would pinch it.
“The term Pikey is a derogatory term short for turnpike men from years gone by who became a nuisance and became known as Pikeys. To me hearing someone referred to as a Pikey is deeply, deeply offensive.
“I have myself been refused access to a public house as I was with a group of Irish travellers and we were celebrating the christening of a little girl.”
Martin, who is married to Chloe and has a young son, Noah, who was born in August, wants to be available for anyone who suffers hate crime or discrimination in North Wales.
He said: “It doesn’t matter to what group you belong. People could be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, of different race, religion, age or disability it doesn’t matter – hate crime is wrong and we need to do something about it.
“I believe education is the answer and I intend to get out and visit schools, colleges, businesses and anywhere else I can get my message across. I will be here to help anyone who suffers from hate crime in North Wales.”
North Wales Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Julian Sandham welcomed Martin into his new post and said: “We care about victims of crime in North Wales and we want to support victims of all crime.
“There are many different levels of crime but it’s important we look after and treat all victims with dignity and respect. Hate crime may not always seem horrible if it doesn’t directly affect us but we need to think of the devastating effect it can have on individuals and even whole communities.
“Just because someone has a particular characteristic that can be associated or attached to a particular group of people doesn’t mean it’s something that should be highlighted or ridiculed.
“Hate crime and discrimination has a devastating effect on people and we have to show, that, here in North Wales, we will not stand by and ignore it.”
Mr Sandham added: “Having established the Victim Help Centre at St Asaph, we included in the design a hate crime caseworker. This role has been funded by the Welsh Government in a grant to Victim Support.”
Gareth Cuerden, the Victim Support All Wales Hate Crime Manager, said: “Martin has worked a great deal with children and young people in the past and his insight into youth work will certainly help. I’m sure Martin will be a huge success.
“I would actively encourage victims to report hate crime, in all its insidious forms, to the police in the knowledge that they will be supported.”
To find out more about the North Wales Victim Help Centre visit http://www.victimhelpcentrenorthwales.org.uk/ or call 0300 303 0159