Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee On Key Issues Affecting The Traveller Community

Traveller Employment and Labour Market Participation: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Pauline O'ReillyPauline O'Reilly (Green Party)
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It is good to see the witnesses again and to have three Galway people, one after the other. I said last week that it is always a pleasure to see the trucks going around Galway. It makes a big difference because of the impact that it has not just on the community that the witnesses are serving but also because everybody sees that and it is almost an advertisement for the work that Travellers are doing around the county. I have met the witnesses several times and have mentioned that outreach in universities is critical. Deputy Ó Cuív has worked with the Traveller community for many years and has a great record. He has also worked with those who have been in prison. I am delighted to be on this committee and to support the work that everyone is doing.

One issue that raised its head is the idea of the Traveller community's history of entrepreneurship. Do the witnesses have thoughts on how that can be better supported? That is why social enterprise can be really successful, being creative about the kind of work that people want to do and have skills in, historically and otherwise. I agree with the comments about the public service. It is being funded by the public and has an obligation that can be measured. I note the comments in one of the opening statements, that there is an obligation for the public service to reflect the community that it is serving. We always talk about that with regard to gender and minorities. This is critical and could be able to mend relationships, apart from just in the workplace but because it has a public-facing role in many instances. As the witnesses outlined about the SEAI, it has a ripple effect. It is not just about the job but everybody that comes into contact with people. As Mr. Ward said in a radio interview, if 0.1% of people in the public service were Travellers, that would be 400 jobs. If it was truly representative of the Traveller community, I worked out that there would be 570 jobs, so 400 is not even getting to the level of being truly representative.

What are the witnesses' other ideas about entrepreneurship? I agree with Deputy Ó Cuív that we have an opportunity now. Much of the work and the plans happening at present are good, such as the pilot programme in the Department of Justice, but we can all do that when it comes to internships.