Senators urged to pass ‘milestone Bill for Travellers’

A briefing aimed at ensuring Senators support the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill will take place in the AV Room of Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2 this Wednesday, 16th October, at 12pm.

Immediately following the briefing, at 12.45pm, members of Seanad Éireann will vote on the Bill, which aims to amend the Education Act of 1998 to ensure that Traveller culture and history must be taught in Irish schools.

Wednesday’s briefing has been organised by Senator Colette Kelleher, who introduced the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill into the Oireachtas last year.  Commenting today (15.10.19), she said: “This is a milestone Bill for Travellers, aimed at ensuring that their history and culture become a mainstream part of all children’s education. I am urging all of my colleagues in Seanad Éireann to give it their full support.

“Travellers have a long and proud history in Ireland and elsewhere.  However, young Travellers rarely see their history reflected in the education system.  At the same time, the wider community have had very little opportunity to learn about the diversity and wider context of Traveller culture and history.  It would be transformative for Traveller children – and Travellers of all ages – to see their history honoured by inclusion within the school curriculum.

Senator Kelleher said there is strong evidence of the need for changes to the education system to ensure Traveller culture is better reflected.

“The statistics in relation to Traveller education are stark,” she said.  “Travellers are more than 50 times more likely than non-Travellers to leave school without the Leaving Cert.  This situation needs to change. 

“The value of the study of history in combatting prejudice and racism is well recognised. Travellers’ experience of racism is unacceptable. According to research by Micheál Mac Gréil of NUI Maynooth in 2010, over 60 per cent of people would not welcome a Traveller as a member of their family, over 63 per cent reject Travellers on the basis of their ‘way of life’, and almost one-fifth of people  would deny Irish citizenship to Travellers.

“As a society, we must ensure we are offering inclusive and equal educational opportunities for all our young people.  We must show Traveller children that they are valued and recognised, and that their culture and heritage are celebrated within the school curriculum.”

In addition to Senator Kelleher, speakers at Wednesday’s briefing in the AV Room of Leinster House will include:

  • Traveller activist Oein De Bhardúin.
  • Traveller historian Patrick McDonagh, a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin.
  • Bairbre Ní Fhloinn, Director of the MA in Irish Folklore and Ethnology at UCD.