Travellers must be treated as full and equal citizens - Adams
Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams, speaking today on his way to the funerals in Bray of victims of the Carrickmines fire tragedy, called for a fundamental reappraisal of the way in which Travellers are treated in Irish society.
Gerry Adams said:
"I extend condolences and solidarity to the Lynch, Gilbert and Connors families and to the wider Traveller community on this sad day.
"Travellers are among the most socially marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Irish society today.
"These citizens fare badly in all key indicators of disadvantage including employment, poverty, health, infant mortality, life expectancy, literacy, education and accommodation.
"Many Travellers are forced to endure intolerable, substandard living conditions with around a third living without access to basic facilities such as sanitation, water and electricity, leading to widespread health problems among Travellers.
"Cutbacks in education, health and other services have impacted severely on the Traveller community.
"At the root of all these problems however is the unacceptable levels of prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion experienced by Travellers at institutional and other levels. Fundamentally, Travellers are not treated as full and equal citizens.
"The widespread expressions of sympathy following the fire that killed ten people, including five children at the temporary halting site on Glenamuck Road, provided hope that this situation could begin to be turned around.
"Unfortunately that hope has been dented by the reappearance of familiar negative attitudes and problems as attempts have been made re-house the families of the victims of this tragedy.
"What this has underlined is the need for an urgent, far-reaching and fundamental reappraisal of the way in which Travellers are treated in Irish society.
"In April 2014 the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality recommended that this State recognises the ethnicity of the Traveller community.
“I believe that the Taoiseach needs to build on the solidarity which has been evident since the Carrickmines fire, by demonstrating political leadership and declaring that the State recognises Traveller ethnicity.
"Of course, such a development would not solve the problems which confront the Traveller community but it would demonstrate leadership on this issue by the Government and set a clear and positive example.
"But much more needs to be done. I believe that we now need to establish a national forum involving Travellers and the settled community, including representatives of all political parties, central Government, local authorities, health and education sectors and representatives of media organisations to plan a way forward.
"Such a forum would discuss openly and in detail how discrimination against prejudice against Travellers can be confronted, including prejudicial attitudes facilitated by the actions of some politicians and media outlets.
"It would examine and make recommendations on how the wider community can be educated about Traveller culture.
"And importantly it would tackle those areas which have frequently resulted in conflict between Travellers and the settled community.
"Travellers must be treated and regarded as full and equal citizens of Ireland. This will require a fundamental shift in individual and community attitudes. This will only happen with political leadership and must be led by Government."