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 Gino KennyGino Kenny (Dublin Mid West, People Before Profit Alliance) | Oireachtas source

I thank all the witnesses for their contributions. I have one particular question for Mr. McCann, who raised the political representation of the Traveller community in his contribution. Does Mr. McCann think the Traveller community has become more politicised in the last ten years? A wide array of people have become more politicised and more aware due to the effects of austerity on their own communities. What is Mr. McCann's opinion on that? Coming from a working-class community, I know that political ideas and persuasions can sometimes get one out of the mire because much of what we see in our daily lives is down to political will.

If there is no political will, however, the witnesses' community will not be represented. I would like to hear Mr. McCann's opinion on that. I know a number of very good activists in the Traveller community. Eileen Flynn is a brilliant person and a great political activist. John Connors and others I am not aware of have become more aware of the fact that there appears to be an ideology at the very top to the effect that the Traveller community is the last of our priorities. I want to hear Mr. McCann's opinion on that because it is a double-edged sword. When one is in the mire and really down, the last thing one thinks about is politics and what to do. Politics gives one hope and if one does not have hope, one has nothing. It gets one out of a bad situation because one is forced to ask the why it is constantly occurring. That has to be challenged politically and in societal terms.

There was a presentation here two weeks ago and it was shocking. One would run out of adjectives to describe what is happening to the Traveller community. Hopefully, this committee can be some sort of a turning point whereby we can say it can no longer be acceptable that members of the Traveller community are six times more likely to commit suicide. That is not acceptable in Ireland. Is there an evolution or a process going on whereby members of the Traveller community are becoming more politically aware?


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