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A permanent seat in the Seanad should be reserved for Travellers, says new Seanad report

A total of 34 recommendations were made.

Members and supporters of the Traveller community outside the Dáil Eireann in 2017 as the Taoiseach announced that Traveller’s Distinct Ethnicity was to be recognised by the Irish State.
Members and supporters of the Traveller community outside the Dáil Eireann in 2017 as the Taoiseach announced that Traveller’s Distinct Ethnicity was to be recognised by the Irish State.

THERE SHOULD BE a place in the Seanad reserved for members of the Traveller community, a Seanad report will today recommend. 

There should also a quota system installed in both Houses of the Oireachtas to ensure Traveller participation in politics, the report says. 

The report of the Seanad Committee, which is made up of 10 senators from across the political spectrum, examined Travellers’ experience of life in Ireland following recognition of their ethnic minority status three years ago. A total of 34 recommendations were made.

These include: 

  • Reserving a seat in the Seanad for Travellers (Taoiseach’s nominee) and introducing Traveller quota system across the Oireachtas, in local democracy, in other decision-making fora and within the civil and public service.
  • Setting targets for Traveller women in mainstream gender quotas, party political gender quotas and State agencies’ quotas.
  • Introducing a paid internship scheme for Travellers in the civil and public service.
  • Protecting and increasing resources for independent national and local Traveller organisations in respect of their work to support Traveller participation and towards broader social inclusion.

The Irish Traveller Movement, Pavee Point, the National Traveller Women’s Forum, Minceir Whiden and the Traveller Counselling Service gave unanimous support to the report at the launch and called on the next government to prioritise the recommendations.

Brendan Joyce of the Irish Traveller Movement told that it is the first report of its kind and has brought the issues in terms of Traveller equality “right into the government building”.

He said that it is the first time that Travellers have been invited into an Oireachtas committee hearing “and to hear their voices right across the country”. “People from every aspect of Ireland can engage in the process,” he said. “It’s great to see.”

He said that the results of the report are “very stark in terms of the content when you look at the conditions for Travellers in Ireland and it brings out the level of inequality” that is present in society.

In particular, he highlighted the lack of Traveller participation in political life in Ireland, and the levels of inequality still experienced by Travellers today.

Testimonials by members of the Traveller community were given as part of the report, and he said that these are “really significant”. There were 34 recommendations made in the report that were partly informed by the testimonials.

Some of those refer to political life and engagement, and he noted that: “Since the formation of the State, there hasn’t been a Traveller [politician] within the Seanad or Dáil Éireann”.

The report calls for a seat to be reserved in the Seanad for a Traveller representative, and he said that this will show that Ireland is open to diversity and will also be important to the 40,000 Travellers who live in Ireland.

Traveller visibility in the public services was also recommended in the report. This would also see the implementation of anti-racism training for public service professionals with greater accountability of public services where racism occurs.

Joyce noted that for Traveller inclusion in Irish politics to really work, there is also the need for training in anti-racism and anti-Traveller prejudice to be carried out across all government agencies, something which all parties should sign up for.

The message needs to be sent out, he said, that there is no place for anti-Traveller racism in Ireland.

With the general election on its way on 8 February, he said that now is the time to “look at all the parties’ manifestos and see what do they stand for”. The focus should not just be on rhetoric, but on things like legislation against hate crime and hate speech in Ireland, he indicated.

He also noted the current discussion around the pension age in Ireland, saying that while this is going on, half of Irish Travellers won’t live until the age of 38. Traveller health and mental health is also a huge issue for the community. A traveller health action plan “should be published as a matter of urgency,” Joyce said.

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