Unheard voices: Irish Traveller community

By Ana Novais

Today, the Irish Travelling community are facing discrimination, racism and hatred by society, and it is vital to bring about awareness and make changes.

Since Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that Travellers were formally recognised as an ethnic minority, we are starting to see positive changes and like any other community, Irish Travellers have the potential and ability to achieve specific goals.

Jim O’ Brian, Manager of Bray Travellers Community Development Group. Credit: Ana Novais

No matter the ethnicity and origin of the Irish Traveller community, there is a great need to consider and focus on elements that will only add value to the development of our communities and, most importantly, ensure the dignity of all people no matter their origin.

Treating the Irish Traveller community with respect and allowing them to embrace their culture, is one of the most critical steps that will improve respect among people. Most importantly, this will help to protect communities. The Irish Traveller community can have a positive role when it comes to contributing to their local area at large.

Patrick McDonagh, PhD Student. Credit: Ana Novais

The biggest division between the settled and the Traveller communities is that there is no trust and to be trusted, we need to get to know the person.

“Respect is earned, it’s a two-way process. You can’t have if it you don’t give it,” said Jim O’Brian, Manager of Bray Travellers Community Group.

Paddy Moorehouse, Community Employment Placement Officer. Credit: Ana Novais

There are just under 40,000 Travellers in Ireland and members of the community are seven times more likely than the wider population to commit suicide.

According to Senator Colette Kelleher: “Racism is wide-reaching, although only 1% of the population, they are 22% more likely to become homeless, they have an 80% unemployment rate, their average life expectancy is 13 years lower than the average population”.

Christy Moorehouse, DAISH service manager. Credit: Ana Novais

Combatting this culture of racism begins with education. She went on to say: “Teaching Traveller Culture and History in schools is the first step in preventing ignorance and racism being passed down to our children. It is the first step in making school a welcoming place for Travellers. It is the first step in a long process, towards a safer and better Ireland for all.”

It seems that building trust between the communities from a young age would help the relationship improve, Jim O’Brien said: “If we never trust we are never going to achieve in life”.

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