Opinion: They are not Irish and they are not welcome

OPINION: The Irish community in New Zealand feels a collective anger about the rowdy visitors to Auckland who have been sparking controversy this week.

The group  -  initially believed to be Irish Travellers, a distinct ethnic group - reportedly dumped rubbish on a North Shore beach, have been abusive, and refused to pay for food.

For many Irish Kiwis like myself, we are mortified at seeing headlines about this supposed 'Irish' family's awful behaviour and the long shadow it casts over Irish people in general.

On Irish NZ community Facebook groups, there are many comments similar to these:

"Whatever or whoever they are, they are not our people and certainly don't represent us Irish abroad."

"This is so embarrassing as an Irish person. They are definitely Travellers and are a different type of people to the general Irish. I want to apologise to Takapuna for these people."

Many of the Irish living here were also affronted by the racist and ugly comments left by Kiwis about Irish people on social media and on news stories. Some of us spent hours talking to our Kiwi colleagues trying to explain what an Irish Traveller is.

The tourists at the centre of the furore were tracked down in Hamilton, and say they are a 'respectable' family from Liverpool and are not 'gypsies'.

Why do some of them have Irish accents? In all probability they are second or third generation 'settled' Irish Travellers who live in England.

Whatever nationality is on their passports, their appalling behaviour isn't welcome here.

Cathy O'Sullivan is Head of Digital for Newshub and a native of Cork, Ireland.