Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee On Key Issues Affecting The Traveller Community

Traveller Employment: Discussion

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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I apologise for being late and I will be brief. I was at something not completely unrelated. I am part of the Oireachtas Women's Caucus, as are the Chair and Senator Ruane. Today's meeting concerned trying to set up caucuses within our counties with local women who have been elected to councils and other community groups. It struck me then when I came in that there should be input from local Traveller women to those caucuses. I apologise to the gentlemen here, but this concerns how women can progress issues in respect of their local authorities.

The figures are stark. It is horrific in this day and age and in this society that some 80% of Travellers are unemployed. I have met Mr. Reilly a number of times in connection with the education committee, where we have examined many issues regarding education for Travellers and other vulnerable groups. I refer in particular to reduced timetables. There is certainly a linkage. One of the people who will forever be in my mind presented at that session, and I know that Senator Ruane will agree with me. I refer to a young Traveller boy who came from Galway to speak to us about his experience. All he wanted in life was to be a community garda, from the time he saw a garda in his community. I understand that in many cases Travellers may feel alienated from the gardaí. This young man, however, fell in love with the uniform and consistently met and was asking gardaí about how he could become a community guard, what is the job and what is the focus.

He also spoke about how a homework club had completely turned around his life. This was a homework club set up in the city for young Travellers. He believes that because of it, he now has a realistic chance of becoming a community garda. I have no doubt that he will become one and that when he does it will have an impact on the people in the Traveller community who feel alienated from the Garda. As a former teacher who taught Traveller children in an integrated setting, I was always aware that many of the children's parents did not like coming to the school because they felt alienated from it. They would feel much more involved and welcome if we had Traveller teachers within the system. I am not 100% convinced about segregated employment. While it has worked in the past and there may be some need for it, integration is the key, but I accept that may take a generation. We need to have a quota of Traveller teachers in the system.

I am interested in hearing the views of the witnesses on a possible quota for State jobs. I agree that there should be a quota. I know a young man who joined the Army and has had a really good career. His children are now in third level education. This man did not get to join the Army on the basis of a quota. He applied to join and was successful, which is a better system. I am interested in hearing the witnesses views on the State jobs where a quota would be useful.

On internships, I was involved in setting up the internship scheme in Leinster House for people with a disability. It has been incredibly successful. Deputy Ó Cuív mentioned that there is no reason we could not run an internship in Leinster House. Would it be a good idea or, again, is that singling out Travellers in a way that they may not want to be singled out? This relates to Dr. Cannon's point regarding the alignment of career pathways and opportunities and one policy lying in with the other.