Racism and poverty affect Roma lives in Ireland, report finds

Minister of State David Stanton says members of community are ‘valued’ in the State

Roma people are ‘valued here in Ireland’ and they should be proud of their heritage, Minister of State for Equality David Stanton (centre) has said at the publication of a report on lives of Roma people in the State. Photograph: David Stanton Td/Twitter.

Roma people are ‘valued here in Ireland’ and they should be proud of their heritage, Minister of State for Equality David Stanton (centre) has said at the publication of a report on lives of Roma people in the State. Photograph: David Stanton Td/Twitter.

 

Roma people are “valued here in Ireland” and they should be proud of their heritage, Minister of State for Equality David Stanton has said.

Speaking at the publication of a report on Roma lives – which underlines the isolation and poverty many Roma families experience - Mr Stanton said he wanted Roma to feel “fully part of the society here”.

Sergiu Pruteanu, one of the report’s researchers, described Mr Stanton’s comments as “huge for our community”. It was the “first time” in more than 25 years that a politician had “come to us to tell us we are welcome,” he said.

The report , Proiectos Romano, is one of the first conducted by Roma researchers on their community. Drawing on detailed interviews of 30 Roma households in the Balbriggan area of county Dublin, it found almost half (46 per cent) of the respondents spoke no or very little English, while almost two thirds (64 per cent) read or spoke only basic English.

The average time respondents had lived here was 12 years, yet 75 per cent had huge difficulties writing in English. Some 90 per cent of respondents were unemployed.

“Before migrating to Ireland the most common job held by Roma women was selling items at local markets...among men [IT]was working on construction sites.” Obstacles to getting work, identified by respondents were language difficulties (73 per cent), racism (33 per cent) and childcare expenses (30 per cent).

School

While almost all (93 per cent) had attended school, five years was the average length of time in education. Some 14 per cent had either not been to school at all or had been for a year or less, while 55 per cent had been only to primary school and 10 per cent to secondary school.

The report said the vast majority (83 per cent) would like to return to study with most saying they would like English classes.

Obstacles to studying were language barriers (66 per cent), racism (52 per cent) and childcare costs (45 per cent).

Roma children, however, are well integrated into the school system and happy here, they said.

More than three quarters (77 per cent) said they have experienced racism in Ireland but 90 per cent said they would not report incidents to gardaí.

Mr Stanton said he wanted to work with Roma communities “to emphasise the good and the positives” and help Irish people get to know them.

“Unfortunately...racism and discrimination are often based on fear and ignorance. Sometimes it is easier for people who are afraid of something they don’t understand to strike out and say or do something nasty, rather than risk getting to know someone new,” he said.

It was important that Roma people were heard so authorities could work with them, and that they get involved in their communities, where they could, the report says.

The key issue, it adds, was “racism” which “permeates every single aspect of Roma respondents’ [LIVES]in Ireland – from accessing employment to walking down the streets...Racism needs major attention”.