The ITM Law Centre
The Irish Traveller Movement Law Centre opened its doors on 2 June 2009. The Law Centre replaces the Legal Unit, which was attached to the Irish Traveller Movement from 2003-2008. The Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) is a national network of organisations and individuals working within the Traveller community. It was established in 1990 and is a partnership between Travellers and settled people seeking full equality for Travellers in Irish society and the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority.
There are an estimated 25,000 Travellers in Ireland, making up more than 4,485 Traveller families. This constitutes approximately 0.5% of the total national population. It is estimated that an additional 15,000 Irish Travellers live in Britain, with a further 10,000 Travellers of Irish descent living in the United States of America.
The Law Centre will operate as an Independent Law Centre within ITM and is one of the five Independent Law Centres in Ireland (namely, Northside Community Law Centre, Ballymun Community Law Centre, FLAC, Immigrant Council of Ireland). Siobhan Cummiskey has been appointed as the solicitor for the new Law Centre. Siobhan has a background in general practice and has worked with human rights NGOs in India and the UK.
The Law Centre will provide a specialist legal service to Travellers in Ireland and is the only one of its kind in the country. The Law Centre recognises that there is an unmet legal need in the Traveller community and that the existence of a specialist legal service for Travellers is essential to the advancement of Traveller rights in Ireland. Its aims are to advance the ability of members of the Travelling Community to access expert legal advice and representation, to proactively advance Traveller human rights under the various legislative frameworks, to advance recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority, to develop the capacity of Traveller organisations to respond to legal issues facing Travellers and to take a series of test cases to challenge laws that attack Traveller culture.
The Law Centre will pursue strategic cases in line with ITM's core issues: Accommodation, Equality and Human Rights, Education, Access to Services and Ethnicity and is seeking the referral of cases of this nature from FLAC and other bodies. Test cases will be selected by the Law Centre with the assistance of the Legal Working Group, which consists of specialist public interest law solicitors and barristers and lay Travellers. Legal Education Workshops are underway across the country on Equality, Ethnicity and Accommodation. The Law Centre will also be involved in the litigation of cases before European and UN bodies. Research and policy work will also be undertaken and the Law Centre hopes to re-establish the Oireachtas sub-committee on Travellers that was set up by the previous Legal Unit. The Law Centre will also offer new Legal Outreach Clinics in ITM's five Regional Centres across the country in order to bring legal services and advice to Travellers.