Department of Justice failing to address ethnic diversity in Travelling and Roma community

By Robert Flynn

The Department of Justice is not addressing the issue of ethnic diversity in the Travelling and Roma community, a Limerick consultation forum heard yesterday in the Castletroy Park Hotel.

The forum was held in accordance with the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy, which aims to have a “revised Inclusion Strategy in place from the end of 2016 until the end of 2020.”

Concerns were raised from participants about the availability of Primary Health Care for members of the Travelling and Roma Community.

An “ethnic identifier”, or lack thereof, was outlined as a key component to healthcare service development for Travellers and Roma.

“If we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it. It’s as simple as that,” said a Community Development Officer (HSE) for Traveller Health Services in Limerick.

No primary health care currently exists for the Roma community within the HSE and is “only compatible with Travellers who self-identify,” said the Officer.

A structural flaw in the health service was outlined whereby Travellers and Roma exist as two different groups within the HSE.

Roma fall under migrant status, despite being citizens of the European Union.

Over fifty people turned out for the consultation meeting yesterday, with representatives from the HSE, and the Irish Traveller Movement in attendance. Various Traveller and Roma representative groups from Limerick, Kerry, Clare, and Cork were also well represented.

Anti-Discrimination and Equality also emerged high up on the agenda for those attending the Limerick based strategy meeting.

Calls for strengthening of the Equal Status Act, and the provision of Hate Crime Legislation, for which there is none yet in place, were outlined as areas of importance for the revised draft Inclusion Strategy.

An Independent Advocacy support structure was also called for and deemed necessary in order to monitor any legal cases arising from provisional Hate Crime legislation.

“Developments in these areas are necessary to strengthen the law and for the Gardaí to enforce it,” said one man representing a Traveller and Roma group in Co. Kerry.

Under the theme of “access to mainstream and targeted financial services”, ‘Susan’ a female Traveller from Co. Kerry, outlined how the Local Authority caravan loan scheme is redundant and discriminatory.

“My father owns his own house, his very own house, yet my brother can’t put his caravan outside because it’s illegal.”

About the scheme referred to in the draft, Susan said: “The point [provision of finance for caravan loans] is pointless without available halting sites.”

Local authorities will be required to expand local authority halting sites nationwide in order to facilitate the Local Authority caravan loans.

The Limerick consultation was the final national meeting in ‘Phase 3’ of the Inclusion Strategy, with the revised draft, drawn up by the Department, to be “brought for further consultation to the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy Steering Group.”

Chairing the strategy meeting in the Castletroy Park Hotel was Deaglán Ó Briain, principal officer at the Department of Justice.

Addressing funding and budgetary issues, Mr Ó Briain said, “Funding issues are for the steering group, for which, the Minister of State is responsible.”

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