Archbishop calls for action on Travellers


The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Desmond Connell, has endorsed a call by the Irish Travellers' Movement for the leaders of political parties to state where they stand on Traveller issues.

The call was made at the annual conference of the ITM in Dublin at the weekend. Delegates were urged to campaign in the local elections, and run as candidates, to pressurise local authorities into meeting commitments on issues such as halting sites.

About 200 Travellers and members of the settled community attended the conference on Saturday, where they were told that 1,200 families are still living by the side of the road without access to water, electricity or sanitary services. The co-ordinator of the ITM, Mr Fintan Farrell, said political leadership was necessary to ensure progress could be made.

He challenged the leaders of all political parties "to make clear statements in the run-up to the local elections" on Traveller issues. The conference called on Travellers to use their votes to win advances for their community, including putting themselves forward as candidates.

An ITM development worker, Mr Thomas McCann, said the organisation had made a lot of progress in the last nine years. "However, the daily oppression, isolation and marginalisation of Irish Travellers remains a reality."

The Archbishop said the priority must be to provide well-planned and designed accommodation to meet Travellers' needs and resource their nomadic way of life.

However, Dr Connell said Traveller issues should "not become a `political football' in the campaign that leads up to the election". Priority should go to meeting accommodation needs.