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‘It's a good thing to be a Traveller’

Wednesday, 10th July, 2019 5:05pm

Social media and technology have made life harder for Travellers in Ireland in recent years.

That’s according to Community Development Worker, Cork Traveller Women's Network, Brigid Carmody, who believes that social media has given the general public a new platform for discrimination.

“We have concerns that it is having a huge effect, particularly on our young people's mental health. Our children are reading some terrible things on social media or hearing them on the radio. That's a lot for a young person to have to carry,” Ms Carmody told the Cork Independent.

Ms Carmody’s comments come following a hearing on Tuesday which saw members of the Traveller community speak in the Seanad for the first time since being recognised as an ethnic minority.

She said: “It was very positive. I think it's a great opportunity for Traveller projects to air their concerns and put recommendations together. We were very happy to take part in it.”

Travellers were formally recognised as an ethnic minority in Ireland on 1 March 2017 and Tuesday’s hearing, Travellers Towards a more equitable Ireland post-recognition followed that milestone by inviting submissions from Irish Traveller communities.

Representatives of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, Traveller group Minceir Whiden, The National Traveller Women’s Forum, The Irish Traveller Movement, and local Traveller groups from Cork, Galway and Wexford, were among those who spoke at the event.

Speakers covered a wide range of topics including strengthening political representation of Travellers locally, nationally and internationally.

At the hearing Ms Carmody spoke about the importance of accurate and fair treatment for the Travelling community in the media.

“I have children myself, and they're questioning their identity. They're questioning why they should tell people who they are. Why hide it? Why try and cover it up? Then I have to justify my culture at work, in my daily life and at home. I have to explain to my children why it's a good thing to be a Traveller,” said Ms Carmody.

When the Irish State formally recognised the ethnicity of Irish Travellers in 2017, then Taoiseach Enda Kenny, said: “I hope that today will create a new platform for positive engagement by the Traveller community and Government together in seeking sustainable solutions which are based on respect and on an honest dialogue.”

However, since the formal ethnic recognition, Ms Carmody feels that there is still a long way to go.

“It was a great thing and we all campaigned for Traveller ethnicity and we celebrated that, but we knew it wasn't going to be an overnight change. It was going to take a lot of work. But I think laws need to be brought in and that the general public doesn't understand how important this ethnicity is to us and the hard work that went into it,” she said.

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