TRAVELLERS are still waiting to see the benefits in their lives of their recognition as an ethnic group granted to them in 2017.
This is very disappointing to know and it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
The finding that benefits have not materialised came this week from the Director of Advocacy of the Traveller Visibility Group in Cork, Breda O’Donoghue.
People may be surprised at the accommodation situation as pointed out by Ms. O’ Donoghue as an example of how Travellers’ situation has failed to advance or improve.
While the two halting sites at Spring Lane and Carrigrohane are more than 30 years old, she said there has been no new extra accommodation provided in Cork city in the past three decades, citing Meelagh in Mahon and St. Anthony’s Park in Knocknaheeny as replacement projects for previous Traveller accommodation.
Given that some of the existing arrangements are far from satisfactory - the problems around Spring Lane for instance are well documented - it is a real concern that major new and improved projects have not come forward.
It would be a worthy ambition for us as a city to provide top class suitable accommodation for every Traveller family in our community.
That would be a fitting goal in the light of the State’s commitment to Traveller ethnicity made in a formal address to the Dáil by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Last week a number of people had to be given temporary accommodation because of flooding at the Carrigrohane site. This does not sit well with the State’s expressed concern for Traveller welfare and equality.
Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, The Irish Traveller Movement and the National Traveller Women’s Forum are calling for urgent government action to address inequality.
This call from respected representative groups must be heeded.
In a statement to mark the fourth anniversary of State acknowledgement of Traveller ethnicity by the Taoiseach and the Dáil, the groups said long campaigned for public recognition was a symbolic moment for Travellers in Ireland’s history, but Traveller organisations have seen only incremental and hard fought changes in the time since.
The groups went on to call on the government to restate its commitments with adequate funding across strategies aimed to combat inequities for Travellers in accommodation, education, health, employment, cultural identity and racism and discrimination.
It is about time that we as a country and as a community lived up to our responsibilities towards a significant number of our people who do not enjoy the same respect and care as their fellow citizens.
There is no doubt that there is ignorant prejudice against Travellers and this does our country no credit.
It would do us great credit to eliminate the unworthy attitudes behind the prejudice but most importantly to provide the practical measures which will bring the standard of life for Travellers up to the level to which they are entitled.