Birmingham & Black Country

Walsall Council leader apologises over traveller comments

Mike Bird
Image caption Mike Bird said travellers "run around on motorbikes shouting abuse"

A council leader has apologised for saying travellers are a "lawless society" who "run around on motorbikes shouting abuse".

Mike Bird, the leader of the controlling Conservative group at Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, made the comments during a phone-in on BBC WM.

A travellers charity previously said it was disgusted by Mr Bird's "hate".

Mr Bird said he did not intend to cause offence.

He told the BBC: "I would like to express my sincere regret and apologies to anyone who was offended by the use of this deeply unpleasant word in relation to any community.

"I respect every community and individual equally and that is something I firmly believe in.

"I deeply regret any offence caused, it was certainly not intended or meant."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Mike Bird is leader at Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Mr Bird drew distinction between "their" and "our" culture and also accused travellers of thefts in the borough during a phone-in on Danny Kelly's mid-morning show on Thursday.

One caller labelled travellers "parasitic" during a long complaint to which Mr Bird responded: "The gentleman is absolutely 100% right."

Mr Bird had said: "The ones that I've come across, they are a lawless society, they have no respect whatsoever for our community."

A spokesperson for charity Friends, Families and Travellers, which "seeks to end racism and discrimination against Gypsies, travellers and Roma", said it was "disgusted" by Mr Bird's comments which were filled with "hate and based upon generalisations".

Phien O'Reachtagian, chairman of the Gypsy and Traveller Coalition, said previously: "His suggestion that communities are lawless is cause for concern from someone in his position.

"We'd be looking to make a formal complaint and liaise with police to see if a crime has been committed."

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