Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee On Key Issues Affecting The Traveller Community

Traveller Mental Health: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Marcella Corcoran KennedyMarcella Corcoran Kennedy (Offaly, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank all our guests for their presentations. I extend a particular welcome to the Offaly Traveller Movement and also thank Ms Sandra McDonagh for her presentation.

I have been a public representative for 20 years and have had reason to engage with the Traveller community on many different levels, be it related to housing or providing assistance in other areas. This is the first year I have ever encountered members of the Traveller movement, particularly women, coming to see me who are suicidal. To have anybody come to see to me to tell me they are suicidal or have attempted to take their own life is gravely distressing. It is shocking for anybody to hear that but I was very shocked to hear it from one particular individual. We know this is a very complex issue. Do our guests consider we need a broader cross-departmental approach to the mental health aspect? We have Department of Health with the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. A number of Departments cross-cut in the provision of services for Travellers. Education has a particular role to play and our guests might comment on that. I can see a rise again in antipathy towards minorities in this country. That will be nothing new to the Traveller community. Should we consider the introduction of an education programme for primary schools where youngsters would be thought that members of minority groups are all human beings and that we are all the same in that we have to get up in the morning, brush our hair, wash our face and go to school? Perhaps that could form part of the national strategy that has been mentioned.

The accommodation element, whatever type it be, is transformative. Some people prefer the ordinary domestic dwelling while others prefer a tailored dwelling. There is much unspent money throughout the country. There is something wrong if the money is available and the local authorities cannot deliver this vitally required accommodation. It comes back to education. We talked about this at a previous meeting and we had an excellent education programme for ourselves before we started this engagement. If such a programme were provided for all the local authorities, it would be a major help. Is that a measure that would be worth considering also?

Is there specific training in place for mental health professionals to deal with members of the Traveller community? If not, is such training a requirement that is needed?


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