The Irish Times view on anti-Traveller discrimination: a voice in the Seanad

The powerful symbolism of Eileen Flynn’s appointment should not obscure the problems faced by Travellers in Ireland

Eileen Flynn, from Ballyfermot in Dublin, will be first Traveller to sit in the upper house, and her presence there will give an important platform to one of Ireland’s most isolated minorities. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Eileen Flynn, from Ballyfermot in Dublin, will be first Traveller to sit in the upper house, and her presence there will give an important platform to one of Ireland’s most isolated minorities. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The failure to include a voice from Northern Ireland among the Taoiseach’s 11 Seanad nominees was a disappointing omission at a time when the work of cross-Border relationship-building is perhaps more important than at any time since the 1990s. At the same time, the nomination of another of the Taoiseach’s 11 – Traveller activist Eileen Flynn – provided a moment for genuine celebration.

Racist attitudes towards the community remain far too prevalent and contribute towards the high unemployment rate

Flynn, from Ballyfermot in Dublin, will be the first Traveller to sit in the upper house, and her presence there will give an important platform to one of Ireland’s most isolated minorities. She would give voice to a community that had for too long gone unheard, Flynn said in her maiden speech on Monday. Her appointment comes three years after the State recognised Travellers as an ethnic minority, a status for which the community had fought a long campaign.

Yet the powerful symbolism of Flynn’s presence in the Seanad should not obscure the very real, and in some cases worsening, problems faced by Travellers in Ireland. Racist attitudes towards the community remain far too prevalent and contribute towards the high unemployment rate and the refusal of councillors across the country to fulfil their duty to provide for Traveller accommodation. The suicide rate among Travellers was estimated to be seven times the national average last year, and support groups speak of a mental health crisis in the community.

Just this week, in a statement to mark the 20th anniversary of the EU’s Race and Equality Directive, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said the country’s treatment of Travellers had been “a dark shadow on our democracy for generations”. It referred to “endemic racism, at street level and from organs of the State”, and noted the effects of discrimination on generations of Travellers in politics, the jobs market, education, health and life expectancy.

Eileen Flynn’s presence in the Seanad will enhance that institution and marks an important milestone. But Ireland is only starting out on the road to real equality for her community.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.