A great collection of Traveller culture at the National Museum
Today: a new HSE resource and news items
We welcome your help, support and partnership to our new HSE campaign #HoldFirm.
Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/ndJrYIm5zHs
Campaign messages can be found here:
Facebook Page: facebook.com/HSElive
Instagram: instagram.com/irishhealthservice Hashtag: #HoldFirm #StaySafe
Twitter handle: @HSELive
Please share the video with your own message or post it to your social media page using #HoldFirm and tagging @HSELive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndJrYIm5zHs
Here is a news item from the Irish Times…
More than €4m in Traveller housing funding left unspent
Ten councils did not spend any money, three didn’t apply for funding, three spent less than half
Kitty Holland Social Affairs Correspondent
File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Just two thirds of the funding allocated for Traveller accommodation was spent last year, according to new figures. Of the €13 million provided by the Department of Housing for Traveller accommodation last year €8.6 million was spent by local authorities and 10 authorities did not spend a cent. These are Donegal, Galway City, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wicklow. The figures were provided to Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin and described by him as “totally unacceptable”. They come as data from the Department show there are more than 1,000 Traveller families living in unsafe, insecure or overcrowded conditions.
According to its most recent “count” of Travellers’ housing conditions, in 2018 a total of 591 families were on unauthorised sites, ie by the side of the road and usually without running water, toilets or secure electricity, and a further 927 were sharing accommodation with other families.
A total of 117 families are by the side of the road in counties that did not spend any money on accommodation last year, including 32 families in Co Mayo and 31 in Co Tipperary.
However three that spent nothing did not even apply for funding, including Mayo which has 47 Traveller families in unsafe or overcrowded conditions. Galway city council and Laois county council also sought no funding last year.
Others, though they spent some of their funding, drew down less than half of what was provided. Cork city, which was allocated €275,799 drew down just €42,319 (15%). Galway county, allocated €1,412,596, spent just €670,440 (48%). Waterford, allocated €170,000 spent just €77,562 (46%). “Unfortunately, too many Traveller families are still living in unsafe, overcrowded accommodation,” said Mr Ó Broin.
The National Social Inclusion Office has added two very useful information pieces to the Travellers Resources Page
This first link details the work of MABS and what support is available:
They have also added the second video clip in the series being produced by THU CHO3 and University Hospital Limerick.
The key message across this video series is ‘Use Your Heart & Stay Apart’. The video looks at what to expect when you arrive at the Emergency Department by car. It reinforces that we must remain apart from our loved ones as they come into hospital.
Credit: University Hospital Limerick.
The video is available at:
and on the resources website page
A useful guide to managing money from MABS is here:
Online Counselling now available at the Traveller Counselling service
In response to the current Covid19 crisis the Traveller counselling service are now offering online counselling to members of the Traveller community who feel they would like to talk to a counsellor, this can be for one session or a number of sessions. These counselling sessions are one to one, are safe, confidential and free of charge. At present we only provide counselling to people who are over 18 years. Anyone who wishes to have a counselling session can to click on the link below and follow the steps.
Click on a counsellor of your choice
Leave your name and number and
Tick the term of service box
The counsellor will get in touch with you to arrange a time for an online counselling session and will send you a link to click on at the time agreed for your online session.
Or you can go to our website
If you have a problem linking in, you can call our counselling support line 0863081476
Please note: the Traveller online counselling service is not an emergency service and cannot respond to a person in crisis. Please refer to one of the following support services if needed:
– Samaritans – 116 123
– Pieta House – 180 247 247 or text HELP to 51444
– Your Mental Health Information: 1800 742 444
– GP or Out of Hours GP
– Get in touch with your local Traveller organisation
Today: from ECT Coordinator TJ Hogan:
Travellers and COVID-19
A piece of writing from TJ Hogan, ECT Coordinator with Breda Hogan for the DISCS project, a project which researches social challenges. For more information see their website at https://discs.ie/
CORK, IRELAND 29/04/2020
In these uncertain times, we find ourselves stuck and confused with who or what to believe. As news on the coronavirus (or COVID-19) floods the headlines, many have begun to panic and some question whether or not we as a nation have the infrastructure to survive this pandemic.
This is something that no one could have foreseen or imagined landing on their doorstep. Those who lack the resources are at much higher risk of not only contracting the virus but losing what little they have during this period of isolation. These are vulnerable people. In Ireland, one such group that falls under this category is the community of Irish Travellers.
THE COMORBIDITIES OF INEQUALITY
Travellers are a small indigenous minority that have been part of Ireland for centuries. Unfortunately, they find themselves in the disadvantaged category of Irish society, especially in areas like education, housing, and access to sanitation and basic health services. As you can imagine, the coronavirus can flourish under these conditions.
While only making up .06% of the country’s total population, 50% of Irish Travellers statistically do not live past the age of 40. Only 1% of Travellers live to see the age of 65 or beyond.
According to the 2010 All Ireland Traveller Health Study published by the Irish Department of Health, the average life expectancy of men, women and children within the Traveller community is, on average, 11-15 years below the general population. The number of deaths among Traveller infants is estimated at 14.1 for every 1,000 live births, compared to 3.9 for every 1,000 live births of the majority.
The study also showed that deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and suicides are higher among Travellers. Travellers are 7 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population and currently hold the highest numbers of deaths in Europe per 40,000 member populations, which is more or less the total number of Travellers living in Ireland according to the CSO in 2016.
You would imagine that circumstances have changed for the better in the decade that has passed since the study was published but, unfortunately, that is not the case. With the growth of population in the community, Travellers have been trying their best to survive on the same limited facilities and spaces as they have done for many years. To this day, however, many halting sites throughout Ireland don’t have access to clean running water or bathroom facilities.
ISOLATION AS PRIVILEGE
The novel coronavirus is an infectious disease that spreads through mere coughs and sneezes, by touching surfaces with the virus on them and spreading it to your face, and research suggests it can be as simple as breathing the same air of an infected person in an enclosed space.
In Ireland statistics have shown that personal contact is the main cause for the spread. When someone sneezes, for example, the droplets from their sneeze will fall on floors or surfaces near them. And if someone comes along and touches it, they could be in danger of contracting the virus themselves, which is why we have been told to keep our distance.
Travellers are already more susceptible to getting some form of chronic disease when compared to the general population, due to lack of basic facilities, resources, and access to health care. Under present circumstances where the government suggests we wash our hands on a regular basis and keep our distance from one another, however, the vulnerabilities of the Traveller community are compounded.
Indeed, Traveller sites – be they official or unofficial – commonly don’t have enough space to put distance between trailers or families, which is why social distancing is an issue. It’s also difficult to wash your hands on a regular basis when you don’t have access to running water.
Today approximately 3,000 or more Travellers live on the side of the road, with little or no access to basic amenities such as running water, toilets, refuse removal and even electricity. But Travellers have been living in such poor conditions for decades!
Although money was allocated to local authorities to build Traveller-specific accommodation with working toilets, refuse service provisions and common necessities like taps and electricity, not much has changed. According to a 2019 report, most of the money went unspent and members of the Traveller community were forced to compete for resources between them. Many suffered greatly as a result.
Prior to 2019, a campaign was underway called Traveller Homes Matter. This campaign was lead nationally by the ITM (Irish Traveller Movement) and a focal point of my role within the organisation. The main aspect of the campaign was to pressure the Irish government to implement policy and act upon Traveller specific accommodation on a national level.
Last summer the campaign came to a conclusion following the publication of a report outlining the current accommodation crisis and living conditions. The hardships of overcrowding faced by the community as a whole were central to this report, which emphasised the need for direct action. However, no policy or plans have been put in place – even as these issues relate to our current circumstances.
All of which is to say that Travellers are already at a disadvantage and due to limitations faced by the community, it is impossible to follow current guidelines.
NAVIGATING A PANDEMIC AD-HOC
On the 3rd of March 2020, the Department of Housing announced specific instructions and funding to local councils to provide Travellers with the basic amenities needed for the duration of the pandemic. Traveller sites have since been in the process of receiving water and sanitation facilities.
As I write this nearly two months later, however, I question whether or not local authorities will implement plans and allocate funding as previously directed.
Personally, in my own interactions with other members of my community and personal observations, not a lot has been done. Before this, many Traveller families would have had to share toilets and washrooms with other families. As Travellers and Irish natives, it is our nature to embrace those around us – especially our family and friends. Physical distancing has become something that is very hard for people to accept.
Self-isolation in overcrowded conditions can be particularly tough. You may have more than one family living together in the same bay, which means you may need to pass or come into contact with them in order for you to be able to go to the shop or see the doctor. Keeping at least 6-foot distance can be close to impossible when you have trailers perched up alongside one another, because of lack of space.
Something as simple as opening your windows could mean you are still not within your boundaries – not just with those in your own bay but those in the bay behind or next to you.
Travellers have called for housing and appropriate living conditions to be built for so many years. If action had been taken when monies were allocated in the past, we would not be in the precarious position we are in today!
Indeed, this is the fault of local authorities and the state. The lack of action and enforcement of plans by both parties is not acceptable! Nor is it acceptable for the national media to shift the blame to the Traveller community. The Irish Times, for example, published on the 2nd of April 2020 that the spread of coronavirus among Travellers was due to their not taking this pandemic seriously! This claim, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Many Travellers are unable to follow the guidelines in place because of circumstances beyond their control.
As I mentioned, Travellers face disadvantages within the educational system. Many choose to leave school because of racial prejudice or because they were nomadic and did not settle in one place for too long. This in turn means many of the Traveller community are unable to read or write. Understanding public posters, government letters, booklets and even searching online for information surrounding the coronavirus can be extremely difficult.
As Travellers are among the most vulnerable people in this country, the clear lack of infrastructure in place to ensure their safety is a failure of the state.
MUTUAL AID AND COMMUNITY
In Ireland, official Traveller sites tend to be built on the outskirts if the city. It is not uncommon for someone to have to travel much further than 2km to reach a shop or seek medical attention.
Imagine that you are experiencing symptoms of the virus: you don’t feel well and understand you need to isolate but cannot drive or don’t have access to a car. How do you approach this type of situation? An ambulance can be called but most wouldn’t fit into the bay of a site to attend to the person. Typically, local authorities hold the keys to site barriers, sheds and gates. This means that if a barrier was obstructing an ambulance or fire truck, for example, no one would be able to open or move it, to allow them access.
Funerals could also present dangers. Reducing the number of attendees can be difficult because Travellers typically have much bigger families. It was proposed by the Irish government that only close family may attend, such as brothers, sisters, parents and children. Numbers are said to be kept to less than 10. But when it comes to a much larger Traveller family, like my own, you will find that they could have at least 10 brothers and sisters, without counting anyone else.
Choosing who should and shouldn’t attend is something that Travellers will not and should not have to do. This is very inhumane and goes against our core values as Travelling people and devoted Christians. We are all reared up to be a very close family unit.
Speaking directly to the community now, however, I would advise to avoid social gatherings where possible and be cautious when coming into contact with other people. I want to commend my community for how they have handled this situation so far given that the odds are stacked against us!
For instance, a Traveller hotline has been set up to give the community advice and updates on the current situation, and to direct individuals to a place where they can be tested. It has been noted that Travellers should also announce to their doctors that they are in fact members of the Traveller community so that they can be looked after as vulnerable persons and receive the relevant care.
We will rise above this. It saddens me that we are limited to using social media as a remembrance of those who have passed through this time and were unable to come out and embrace one another like we have always done. I want you all to keep using social media to keep our memories alive and to keep in touch with those around us! As we all try our best to isolate under these conditions, online contact is the best way to check up on people who may not be O.K., especially those you know who struggle with loneliness.
Please do not follow false information. Stick to reliable sources like gov.ie or the HSE. Finally, I want to say that there are supports out there. I have attached them below.
- Traveller Hotline – HSE: 1800 808 809
- National Traveller organisations:
ITM (Irish Traveller Movement): _________________01 679 6577
Minceir Whiden: _______________________________ 0858804450
Pavee Point: __________________________________01 878 0255
National Traveller Mabs: ________________________07 610 7200
National Traveller Mental Health Network: __________085 125 3211
Exchange House: _______________________________01 872 1092
HSE General Public Hotline _________________________1850 241850
- Other notable contacts
Travelwise _______________________________________01 613 1733
Alone __________________________________________081 822 2024
Senior Line ______________________________________1800 804 591
Samaritans ______________________________________116 123
Pieta house ______________________________________1800 247 247
Womens Aid _____________________________________1800 341 900
FLAC _________________________________1890 350 250/01 874 5690
Workers’s Rights ___________________________________1890 747881
Threshold ________________________________________1800 454454
Also today: Pavee Point’s
Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, Cork Traveller Visibility Group, St. Catherine’s Community Services Centre and Wicklow Travellers Group have teamed up in a new national pilot project to employ four Traveller Domestic, Sexual Gender-based Violence (DSGBV) Community Workers. The project is funded by Tusla the Child and Family Agency.
The aims of the project:
§ To support Traveller knowledge and understanding of, and response to, issues of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence
§ Improve responses to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence against Travellers through service and policy development
§ Work to ensure equality of access to, and outcomes from, domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services to identify barriers and effectively engage with Traveller women in accessing and using their services.
§ Promote a model of Traveller participation in the prevention of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence
§ Liaise and create dialogue between Travellers and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence service providers in their local areas
§ Create and carry out awareness raising and capacity building activities in their local areas
§ Inform domestic, sexual and gender-based violence policy and practice at local and regional levels
For more information, contact:
National Coordinator for the Traveller DSGBV Pilot Project: Laura Pohjolainen
Telephone: 01 878 0255 ext. 122
Carlow Traveller DSGBV Community Worker:
Cork Traveller DSGBV Community Worker:
Fingal Traveller DSGBV Community Worker:
Wicklow Traveller DSGBV Community Worker:
And a song or two – let’s keep our spirits up as we get through this crisis:
IN TODAY’S UPDATE WE’VE SOME INFORMATION FOR TRAVELLER MUMS AND MUMS-TO-BE; SITES THAT ARE SUPPORTING PEOPLE OF MANY CULTURES, AND A SHORT FILM
First, from Pavee Point
Also from http://www.paveepoint.ie
There are many organisations supporting multicultural activities – some of who Cumann na Daoine are linking with in preparation for our Le Cheile project later in the year. Take a look at these, they may be of interest
Finally today – a short film ‘Traveller Pride’
Today we’ve some health and safety information: please share this with your families and friends.
Thanks to Pavee Point: check them our at http://www.paveepoint.ie
For pregnant women…
Domestic and sexual abuse – supports here
Also see our news post:
For Roma people: video and information
This week we’re supporting the rise of Autistic Traveller voices in both the Traveller and Autism movements. Remember, you can call TJ at the East Cork Traveller Project on 0852853446
Please share the following videos, it’s vital all Travellers, especially Autistic Travellers, see all the messages of love and solidarity.
Remember to stay home, stay safe, wash your hands and follow all HSE recommendations during this difficult time. Let’s try save lives.
Thank you so much to a dear friend and powerful Traveller Activist Margaret O’Leary and her beautiful daughter Mary Connors for joining the online campaign supporting the rise of Autistic Travellers in both the Traveller and Autistic movements. Looks like we have another Amazing Traveller Activist growing up – can’t wait until you join us in the Traveller movement, Mary.
Thank you so much to a beautiful friend, Powerful Traveller Activist Martin Margaret McDonagh for joining the online campaign supporting the rise of Autistic Travellers voices in both the Traveller and Autistic movements.
Margaret also wanted to add “Reach out to Autistic led pages and groups on social media as it is important we are building solidarity with the Autistic community.”
Thank you so much to a very good friend and one of our greatest Traveller Activists Martin Collins for joining the online campaign supporting the rise of Autistic Travellers in both the Traveller and Autistic movements.
Thank you so much, Gillan Kearns, a dear friend and ally, for joining the online campaign supporting the rise of Autistic Travellers voices in both the Traveller and Autistic movements. “I am a self-identified Autistic woman who has masked and hidden my true nature for most of my life so I understand how hard and exhausting this can be. Before I realised I was Autistic I struggled trying to figure out why things seemed so hard, why I didn’t quite ‘fit in’, why other people bullied, excluded and mocked me. I’m only at the beginning of my unmasking journey, to be honest I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully unmask. But discovering I was Autistic was such a relief, such an awakening to myself and to a community of supportive, caring and compassionate individuals who would be more than happy to offer that love and support to our Autistic Traveller brethren on their journey too and to help amplify and lift up their voices”
What is the Le Cheile project?
On hold during Covid19, we’re planning ahead for September, when we’ll host
8 sessions for a group of mixed cultures and nationalities to share experiences and learn in a community setting. We aim to help integrate cultures through diversity training and getting to know one another!
Content will include art, food and other activities, helping us learn about different cultures, based on our local populations and who takes part.
Together we’ll produce a ‘Charter of Community Inclusion’ to show that Youghal welcomes people of all cultures.
Between now and then, we’re asking anyone who’d like to be involved to let us know…
- If you can translate information leaflets, health guidelines and other materials that we can share online!
- What you’re like to see talked about in the sessions
- Ideas for things we might include as part of the project
- Ways we can reach out to people of different nationalities in this area
If you can do any of the above, email Hayley at http://hayleycumannnadaoine.com
And now, some links to world music to cheer your day