Housing, racism, and jobs are biggest issues facing Travellers, forum hears

Impact of intergenerational exclusion on the community’s young people discusssed

Members of the Travelling community protesting over accommodation in 2014. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Members of the Travelling community protesting over accommodation in 2014. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Inadequate housing, racism and a dearth of job prospects are the greatest challenges facing young Travellers, a forum to increase their involvement in discussions on such issues heard on Wednesday.

The event, hosted by the Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) to mark publication of its first Traveller Youth Participation and Leadership Strategy, heard from a number of Traveller youth workers.

Bernard Joyce, director of ITM, pointing out 58 per cent of Travellers are under 25, said: “Young Travellers need to be heard on issues of importance to them, but there are few spaces where this happens, or where their views are sought. We need to encourage their engagement and ensure that’s valued in the wider context of Irish life, and visible in national conversations.”

The strategy, to run from 2021 to 2015, aims to bring young Travellers together on a regular basis to discuss and make recommendations on the issues important to them. It is hoped this will “empower” them and build their capacity to “become leaders in their own communities”.

Census 2016 found just 8 per cent of working-age Travellers, compared with 73 per cent nationally had reached leaving certificate at second level.

Traveller youth workers who participated in drawing up the strategy stressed the impact of intergenerational exclusion on the community’s young people.

Michael Collins, youth worker from Finglas, Dublin, and a Traveller, said many young people had negative experiences when trying to get work, while others who wanted to get into training or apprenticeships did not know how. He called for a dedicated Traveller employment service.

“Travellers don’t have the social capital or the connections other young people would have to gain employment. There are agencies that could help. It’s about getting information out to the young people.”

Sally Flynn, a Dublin-based Traveller woman, said she had been “very lucky” with the support she received at her secondary school in Ballyfermot.

She said many Traveller children and teenagers, however, felt belittled and unwelcome at school. Reduced timetables was mentioned as a means schools use to exclude Traveller children.

One of the biggest issues Ms Flynn saw for Traveller children was “overcrowding” in housing and halting sites.

“It has a huge impact on the young people’s mental health. We see it every day. People still do not have their basic needs being met.”

Leanna Ward, a young Traveller based in Galway, said while it was important to encourage young Travellers to participate in strategies, and to stay on in education, there had to be the prospect of employment in adulthood.

“Having the strategy is brilliant but it’s about having opportunities afterwards. Is there an opportunity for employment?” Citing the example of Bounceback recycling in Galway, which is employs 12 Travellers, she said “it should be mandatory for employers to have one Traveller employed”.

Minister for Children and Equality, Roderic O’Gorman, sent his support for the strategy though Mr Joyce, in answer to a question, said there had been no financial support from the Department for it.