Travellers ‘excluded’ from labour force
Council of Europe finds widespread discrimination
A halting site near Tullamore Co Offaly. The Council of Europe has found that members of the Travelling community continue to experience discrimination in accessing the labour market and health services in Ireland. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh.
Urgent measures need to be taken to address the de facto exclusion of members of the Travelling community in Ireland from the labour market, the Council of Europe has warned.
In a report on Ireland’s implementation of the European treaty on the protection of national minorities, the human rights watchdog found that members of the Travelling community continue to experience discrimination in accessing the labour market and health services in Ireland.
It found despite the “positive developments and the general climate of dialogue existing in Irish society”, towards the Travelling community, Travellers face discrimination accessing health, education and accommodation.
It noted that a large number of Travellers remain unemployed, citing data from the 2006 Census which revealed a 75 per cent unemployment rate for Travellers compared to 9 per cent generally. “The main reasons for this deplorable situation, identified by the Travellers themselves, are discriminatory practices and social exclusion leading to low self-esteem and poor performance in education,” the report states.
Similarly, the school drop-out rate for children aged 15 from the travelling community according to the 2006 census stood at 63.2 per cent, compared to 13.3 per cent nationally, while participation of travellers in higher education was 0.8 per cent, compared to 30.2 per cent of the national population.
While Ireland does not recognise Travellers as a national minority, the report welcomed the fact that Irish authorities had introduced measures to recognise the community’s special position in society and to better protect their rights.
However, it highlighted the persistence of negative stereotypes regarding the community in some written press and electronic media, in particular with regard to criminality, abuse of social benefits and nomadism.
Noting that political representation at both local and national level remains very low, the report added that the various Traveller representative bodies that have been set up remain purely advisory with no decision-making powers. It also described the absence of any Roma representatives from the various Traveller committees that have been established by the State since 2007 as “regrettable”.
In addition, the Council of Europe urged Irish authorities to “finalise the consideration of the proposed recognition of travellers as an ethnic minority”. Responding to the Council of Europe report yesterday, the Government said that “consideration of this issue remains ongoing”, noting that all the protections afforded to ethnic minorities in EU directives and international conventions apply to Travellers in Ireland.
The Government also pointed out that significant progress had been achieved in the delivery of Traveller accommodation, including Traveller-specific accommodation, since the enactment of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998.