A FORMER mayor has caused controversy by saying travellers should go “back to Ireland” with “their thieving and filthy ways” in a heated email row.

Chris Walker, an Eastwood Park councillor, made the remarks to Labour councillor Julian Ware-Lane when referring to travellers in the borough.

In the exchange, seen by the Echo, the councillors debated the growing number of travellers camping in the borough.

The recent episode where travellers entered the Victory Sports Ground, Sutton Road, Southend was highlighted.

Milton ward councillor Mr Ware-Lane urged the council to find a space where travellers could set up camp temporarily and felt the council was “neglecting their responsibilities in this regard.” He then wrote: “I am seriously concerned the traveller community gets treated like pariahs and are shifted from pillar to post. Whilst, of course, there are elements in the traveller community that do bad things, to the best of my knowledge none of the crime committed in Milton is committed by anyone from the traveller community.”

Mr Walker responded: “They are treated like pariahs because they are pariahs. They have been driven from Ireland whence they emanate because of their thieving and filthy ways. “They contribute nothing to society in the way of taxes etc and create filth wherever they go. Why should we make allowance for them? It would be better for all if they were to learn the foolishness of their ways and go back to Ireland. They are their own worst enemies.”

Mr Ware-Lane published the comments on his blog, awordfromwier.blogspot.co.uk

Stephen Aylen, Independent councillor for Belfair Ward, was also involved in the email exchange. He said to Mr Ware-Lane: “Next time we have these so called travellers arrive in Belfairs or Oakwood park (remember a large majority of the residents in the area around these parks are proper gypsies) could you please provide me with flyer maps of locations in Milton (such as the cliffs ) that these travellers may use.

Mr Ware-Lane told our reporter the comments were “shameful” and shamed every councillor. He added: “His (Mr Walker’s) ideas belong in the 19th century, we are in the 21st century.”

When asked why he publicised those comments, he responded: “I want them to realise what they’ve done and apologise, and not to repeat it again.” He said all members of the community should be treated with respect. He added: “From the way Chris Walker had written the email he wasn’t ill-advised, it’s clearly based on ignorance and bigotry. He’s a former mayor, he should know better. He has far more experience than me and should retract his comments or apologise.”

The Echo called Mr Walker five times for comment, but we received no response before the paper went to print.