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 delegates very much for their honesty. I do not have many questions because they have covered a lot. Racism and social exclusion were covered. Education has always been key. There has to be education on both sides, including for settled people. This is where the misinformation is coming from. I have many good friends who are settled Travellers and some are still living in caravans. When spoken to, they tell the truth.
One of the delegates stated there is a mental health crisis now. This is absolutely the case. We are blue in the face listening to Cinderella budgets. From what I am hearing, I am not very hopeful about what is going to happen in 15 minutes in the Dáil, when the budget is announced, but we will keep an eye on it.
Traveller well-being was mentioned, as was the need for community-led pilot projects. It is a matter of resources. I was a member of the Traveller consultative committee of Cork County Council a number of years ago. The engagement was absolutely mind-blowing, as was the educational standard. People would not have expected that but this is because Travellers are judged. They comprise the longest established ethnic group in Ireland, yet they are being marginalised.
I agree with many of the sentiments expressed. More voices are needed. Many of the local councils are very strong on Travellers while others are very dismissive. People do not understand certain aspects of their culture. When they do not understand, the first thing they do is become defensive. When they are losing an argument, that is when the stuff is thrown, when the problem escalates and when everything goes pear-shaped. It has to be a matter of primary education. We have to go back to what we had years ago, including civics, through which people were taught common sense and taught in plain English about what was happening.