Seanad hopeful would be first female Traveller in Oireachtas

‘It’s important to bring a Traveller voice to the table,’ says activist Eileen Flynn

Eileen Flynn (30): ‘I have worked very hard to be the woman I am today, challenged my way through the system.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Eileen Flynn (30): ‘I have worked very hard to be the woman I am today, challenged my way through the system.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A Seanad candidate from Ballyfermot in Dublin is hoping to become the first female Traveller to be elected to the Oireachtas.

Eileen Flynn (30), who grew up in the Labre Park Traveller housing site, has been nominated to the Labour panel by TD Thomas Pringle and the three People Before Profit TDs.

She has lived in Donegal since 2018, having married a local “settled” man, Liam White. They have a daughter.

“I am looking at her thinking of the inequalities I experienced growing up on a halting site,” Ms Flynn said of her child. “I grew up in one of the houses. To be honest, they felt barely put together. There were problems with the windows, the heating. The conditions were horrible.

“My mother died at 48 years of age of pneumonia. It was not just my family. It was the same, and still is, for a lot of families, not just in the Traveller community.”

Community worker

Ms Flynn went to Trinity College Dublin through an access programme for disadvantaged young people and qualified as a community worker from Maynooth University.

She has been an activist for more than a decade, working with the Irish Traveller Movement, the National Traveller Women’s Forum and Ballyfermot Traveller Action Programme. She has campaigned on housing, marriage equality, abortion rights and anti-racism issues.

“My priorities are mental health services, unemployment among Travellers, opportunities for minority groups and getting hate-crime legislation enacted,” she said.

“I am aware a lot of work has been started on Traveller issues in the Seanad but for me it’s important to bring a Traveller voice to the table. I’m not seeking election purely on the basis of being a Traveller. I have worked very hard to be the woman I am today, challenged my way through the system. Without the challenges I have had I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.”