Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee On Key Issues Affecting The Traveller Community
Traveller Mental Health: Discussion (Resumed)
I thank the witnesses for the presentations.
The commentary by one of the candidates in the presidential election was probably one of the most disgraceful political contributions I have heard in my lifetime. At the beginning of September this year, I took one of my grandchildren to the local school in Ardfert. He was sitting with Traveller children at one table. When my children went to school, they were sitting with Traveller children. There is a nice Traveller community in the village of Ardfert. Once all the children came out of primary school, a split came about. The Traveller children and settled children went their separate ways. There is what I would call a structural breakdown within communities in how to prevent any form of exclusion. Exclusion is probably one of the main issues regarding how Travellers are treated. There is also structural discrimination, which leads to the loss of job opportunities. It also leads to the denial of third level education, or a full education. Traveller children are as entitled to this as my children or grandchildren. This all leads to exclusion, serious health issues, further isolation and serious mental health issues. The incidence of mental health difficulties in the Traveller community is six times the national average. It is a matter of how we deal with it. In dealing with it, there is political cowardice, whereby people elected to represent everybody end up, in some cases, representing a very small few and, in other cases, quite a sizeable number. In most cases, it results in political discrimination towards the Traveller community and other ethnic groups. It is a matter of how we break it down. Perhaps for electoral or ideological reasons, the political establishment has contributed to the structural discrimination. We must, therefore, find a method of dealing with it.