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Dublin: 16 °C Friday 3 July, 2020

'I have to pinch myself': Eileen Flynn on becoming the first female Traveller in the Oireachtas

Flynn was one of Micheál Martin’s nominees to the Seanad.

Eileen Flynn.
Eileen Flynn.
Image: National Women's Council of Ireland

TRAVELLER ACTIVIST AND now soon-to-be senator Eileen Flynn has described the moment she received a phone call from Taoiseach Micheál Martin informing her that she had been chosen as one of his 11 nominees to the Seanad. 

Flynn has campaigned on anti-racism issues, marriage equality, housing and abortion rights and will be the first female Traveller in the Oireachtas. 

Speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio One this morning, Flynn said that she hopes to go on and make a positive impact for communities across Ireland which are underrepresented. 

But the moment she received a call from the Taoiseach is one she will never forget. 

She explained: “I got a phone call from Taoiseach Micheál Martin and it was the most amazing call I’ve got in my life. I wasn’t too sure if I was going to get it or not but to be nominated was just phenomenal.”

Flynn described how she wants to be someone who helps bring about change for the Traveller community in Ireland and to show young women what can be done through perseverance. 

She said she wants to bring in members of underrepresented communities, such as refugees and the black community, and to have them speak for themselves instead of speaking on their behalf. 

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“I’d love to see hate crime legislation in Ireland, we do not have it. I’ll be working with black people, migrants, refugees, Travellers. I’d like to work with those people, those who don’t fit into boxes,” she added.

Flynn said that there are many obstacles put in the way for people from these communities. She added: “Young people in Ballyfermot wouldn’t have the same opportunities as those in Blackrock or Foxrock.” 

“I hope young Traveller women will look up and say life is hard but if you keep at it and if you believe in a young person they might go on to be something they never imagined.”

Speaking about her first day ahead of her in the Seanad, Flynn joked: “I woke up this morning and said ‘Oh, God, what am I going to do’. I have to pinch myself. But I will go in there and I’ll be a voice for equality and I will do my best.”

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