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 Colette KelleherColette Kelleher (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I will attempt to sum up some of the issues that arose in the questions. The importance of early intervention and prevention was stressed, as was the importance of an ethnic identifier. There was a contrast between people going to a GP and accessing mental health services. The importance of culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate services and supports was mentioned, and there was talk of the need for a fit in this context. This is happening in Galway, with therapy services, and in Offaly, with the Travelling to Well-being service, as well as in Cork. The answers are there but these groups need to be resourced. The peer-led youth projects in west Limerick and the approach in Exchange House are similar operations. We know the scale of the challenge in the community in regard to mental health issues and suicide, and we know that they have gone beyond a crisis or an epidemic.

From my studies, I remember the theory that all private problems are public issues, and these problems are all political. Deputy Gino Kenny raised the issue of representation and Deputy Ó Cuív offered some thoughtful and useful advice about the 1,000 votes and the last seat, as well as the idea of a Seanad seat. This will feature in the report following on from the public consultation we had in July. The social distance is huge. As Mr. McCann said, it is deep and it is getting deeper and it has been there for a long time. There is effectively an apartheid between people. How do we go from political cowardice to political will and leadership so that we do not have to ask how we can watch when such a thing happens?

We will have the Minister before us next week and officials from the Department of Health and the HSE will come before us. We will ask the hard questions. We should also look at the national Traveller and Roma inclusion strategy, NTRIS, to see how we are faring with the cross-departmental approach.

We will perhaps invite the Minister in to ask about that at the end of all of the modules. We will pick out the mental health modules to see whether, in the face of what we heard over the past two weeks, the response in any way matches the scale of the crisis. I thank everyone very much for coming in and for their comprehensive submissions and presentations. I thank them for sharing difficult stories and reflections. We have heard you; that is the first step, the next is action. We will now adjourn until Tuesday, 15 October 2019, when we will continue our considerations.


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