High suicide rate among Travellers linked to “hatred” in Irish society
Joint Oireachtas Committee hears submissions on recognising Travellers as an ethnic group
Travellers at risk: The Irish Traveller Movement said the community experiences an “innate” amount of discrimination and prejudice in all area of life on a daily basis. Photograph: Fran Veale
Members of the Travelling community can “feel the hate” that Irish society harbours for them, and it is “directly linked” to the group’s high suicide rate, an Oireachtas Committee has been told.
The Irish Traveller Movement said the community experiences an “innate” amount of discrimination and prejudice in all area of life on a daily basis.
“Some of the hate towards us is because we are seen as deviants, villains and a subculture – people who won’t conform or participate in society,” said the group’s director Brigid Quilligan.
She was addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, which yesterday heard presentations on “the recognition of Traveller ethnicity”.
“That is the reason ethnicity is so close to my heart,” she said. “People justify racism against us by saying ‘they bring it on themselves’.
“That is what the general Irish population think about us – and we know that. We feel that. We feel the hate. Our children feel the hate.”
Hate in the media
“We see the hate in the media. We see it displayed by people in positions of responsibility: politicians, judges, policemen, teachers, doctors. We see it, we feel it and we experience it on a daily basis.
“We’ve been devalued within society. Never before, in my lifetime, have I seen such hate as I’ve seen in the last five years. If you open a newspaper, turn on the television, if you’re in a shop, if you’re on a train, there is anti-Traveller sentiment fired at you.”
She said the recognition of the Travelling community as an ethnic group was “vital to our survival”.
“Our suicide rate is six times the national average. Now I know, and our colleagues know, and the people in the gallery know, that that is directly related to the oppression and the marginalisation our people suffer.”
She was also heavily critical of politicians who have made comments that have been construed as anti-Traveller. “What’s happening more and more is people in power are coming out with absolutely outrageous anti-Traveller propaganda. It’s like open season on Travellers with little or no consequences for their actions.”