Seanad Public Consultation Committee recommends a reserved seat in Seanad for Travellers

Read the full report here.

The Seanad Public Consultation Committee is recommending a reserved seat in the Seanad for Travellers (Taoiseach’s nominee), in a report launched in Leinster House this morning.
It’s among 34 recommendations being made by the Committee in its Travellers Towards a More Equitable Ireland Post-Recognition report  which aims to help end “the stigma, longstanding prejudice, discrimination, racism, social exclusion and identify erosion being experienced by Travellers.”
Committee Chairman, Senator Paul Coghlan, said “less than 1 per cent of Travellers have gone on to third-level education.
73 per cent of Travellers are under the age of 35 with very few Travellers living into their 70’s, compared to an average life expectancy of 82 for the majority of the population.
The unemployment rate stands at above 80 per cent within the Traveller community. Suicide accounts for over 10 per cent of all Travellers death.”

Senator Coghlan said: “These represent some of the challenges that are faced by members of the Traveller community on a daily basis and this Report and its recommendations strive to propose solutions to alleviate some of the factors that contribute towards them. He strongly reiterated the view of the Committee that there is absolutely no room in Irish society for any kind of prejudice, discrimination or racism against any ethnic group.”

Report Rapporteur Senator Colette Kelleher said: “Reserving a seat at the political table, specifically the Seanad, was a key and consistent recommendation, as was the need for quotas including one for Traveller women to redress the great disparities in participation and influence.”
The report’s recommendations also call for:
• A paid internship Scheme for Travellers in the Civil and Public Service.
• Political parties and candidates to sign up to and enforce anti-racist protocols.
• Development and resourcing of a National Traveller Cultural Centre and Archive.
• A network of transient sites to enable Travellers to be nomadic if they wish.
• A comprehensive National Traveller Education Strategy addressing issues including an end to reduced hours timetables.
• A Traveller Employment and Enterprise Strategy addressing high unemployment levels and exclusion from the wider labour market.
• A National Traveller Mental Health Strategy.
• Prioritisation of Travellers for access to universal GP care.
• Hate speech legislation with specific protection for Travellers.
• Acknowledgment of the impact of inequality, marginalisation and segregation caused by policies and actions and inactions of the State.
• Promotion of LGTBI+ visibility, pride and identity within and external to the Traveller community.
• Progress on the implementation of the National Traveller Roma Inclusion Strategy (NTRIS).

Senator Kelleher said the distinct ethnicity of Travellers was officially recognised on 1 March 2017 by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny, but more than two years on little tangible difference has happened to transform Travellers’ lives for the better.
Senator Kelleher said: “Life for members of the Traveller community in Ireland today is hard and a struggle. It is one where daily experiences of harsh words, hate speech, racism, prejudice and discrimination is common. Compared to the majority population, Travellers experience huge disparities and inequalities in health and mental health. Many live in extremely inadequate accommodation and poverty and have low levels of access to and progression in education with knock on effects seen in access to jobs.”
The Seanad Public Consultation Committee received 67 submissions, overwhelmingly from Travellers and Traveller organisations relating to one or both of the following two themes:
-Traveller Participation and Politics.
– Dialogue and traveller Social Inclusion.
Following a review of the submissions, the Seanad Public Consultation Committee invited members of the Irish Traveller community, including private citizens, representative organisations and other interested parties to make oral presentations to the Committee.
The hearings took place in the Seanad on 9 July 2019.
Senator Coghlan paid tribute to Senator Kelleher for proposing the topic for examination and for acting as Rapporteur in the drafting of the report which was adopted by the Committee in December. He acknowledged her tireless advocacy on behalf of the Traveller community.