Report on attitudes to Travellers published

 

One in five Irish people would deny citizenship to Travellers, a new survey has found.

This result was described as “frightening” by report author Fr Michael MacGreil SJ . It marks an increase of 10 per cent over the last 20 years and shows a “growing polarisation in public attitudes towards Travellers”, he said.

He was speaking this evening as he published Emancipation of the Travelling People which monitors changes in public attitude towards Travellers over the past 35 years.

Three quarters of people would be reluctant to buy a house next door to a Traveller, the survey of over 1000 people by the ESRI in 2007 /2008 found.

This finding has increased since a similar survey 20 years ago. It indicates a “negative mood” in Irish society towards having Travellers in the immediate area, Fr Mac Greil said.

A change in the main reason for this answer changed from “not socially acceptable” in the 1988 survey to “way of life” in the 2008 survey.

This was welcomed by the author.

At almost 40 per cent, those who would welcome Travellers as a member of their family was the highest ever measured. It was triple 1988 finding.

While the percentage was still too low, it took Travellers out of the “lower-caste” status in the minds of a significant portion of people, Fr MacGreil said.

The report’s most positive finding was that three quarters of people felt that Travellers were competent to sit on a jury. This marked an increase of 20 per cent compared to 1988.

"In the folklore of travellers very little confidence in the courts because feel they are not represented" he said.

There was also a slight improvement in the number of people who would be willing to employ a Traveller, which stands at 60 per cent.

Almost three quarters of people who supported Travellers being facilitated to their own way of life, to 72 per cent, a decline of 20 per cent.

Respondents with third level occupations were least in favour of this which was “disappointing” the report said.

Solidarity between less-well off people and Travellers was revealed in the results.

Respondents in unskilled and semi-skilled occupations and those with least education were the most tolerant towards Travellers pointing to solidarity, the report said. This pointed both to class prejudice and evidence of solidarity, the report said.

Among the main recommendations of the report were the removal of the culture of poverty and depravation, creation of a unique ethnic group status and a statutory commission to review Traveller policy.

Fr Mac Greil said there needed to be a new and pluralist approach by thestate as the policy of assimilation or “settling” Travellers had not succeeded in integrating travellers into Irish society.

The findings showed a need for strong robust anti-discrimination legislation and a well-resourced body to implement it, Martin Collins of Pavee Point said.

Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey said that conflict resolution in the Traveller community would be his priority.

The report was based on an ESRI survey in 2007/2008 and replicates previous surveys in 1972 and 1988.