Equality must be the cornerstone of social provisions for the Travelling Community - Doherty
In response to a Seanad discussion 'Realising Equality and the Traveller Community' Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty said "if a society is judged on how it treats identifiable minority groups then Ireland would fail miserably."
"I commend the great work of Pavee Point, the Irish Traveller Movement, Exchange House and the dozens of Traveller advocacy groups throughout the island in the area of promoting Traveller inclusion.
"These groups require not just state funding but acknowledgement that they provide services to a marginalised group that the state has failed to reach and include.
"If a society is judged on how it treats identifiable minority groups then Ireland would fail miserably. We have singularly failed in the challenge to ensure inclusion of Travellers in both the private and public sphere.
"Travellers die younger, have higher rates of suicide, endure unemployment rates 15 times that of the settled population, and have the lowest attendance at school. Yet rather than examine the core reasons why, the conventional wisdom, rarely unchallenged, is that it is their own fault.
"I pose a question, imagine if Travellers were not white.
"How long do you think it would take for International Organisations such as the UN, OSCE, Amnesty, and Human Rights Watch to unequivocally accuse Ireland of running an apartheid system?
"Some good equality legislation has been brought into over the past decade, but this state need to start applying targeted programming that can assist Travellers to fully function in their country.
"This means being providing the supports so that they are able to stay at school longer, ensuring that Local Authorities and the Department of Environment offer a range of accommodation options, stepping up to the mark and facilitating Travellers in the workplace, including the Civil Service, local authorities and semi state bodies.
"We need to encourage entrepreneurship in the Traveller community and assist Travellers in developing their own business; FAS's recent pilot projects in this regard are promising but need to be mainstreamed.
"Sinn Féin is one of the few who support the Travelling community's demand for their recognition as a distinct ethnic group. The significance of recognition would be that it would create an onus on the government to protect their Traveller culture in resources allocation." CRÍOCH