Anti Racism & Interculturalism – Key Issues
What we are working towards: “Travellers have equal opportunities in life and
feel valued in Irish society (including access to justice, employment) with their
ethnicity recognised, respected and resourced.”
Central to any person’s happiness and well-being is a sense of belonging, of pride in oneself and your cultural identity. Also central is a recognition that your cultural identity allows you an opportunity to fully express who you are and for you and your family to actively participate in an inclusive society which celebrates and promotes diversity.
Sadly, the status of Travellers in Ireland not only does not reflect this: the reality is almost the complete opposite. Since 1963 the Irish State has consistently denied Traveller ethnicity and has taken active steps to ensure that key aspects of Travellers’ culture has become outside the law (nomadism, market trading, horse ownership).
The Irish Traveller Movement has recognised that central to Travellers’ experience in Ireland is that their ethnic identity needs to be recognised by the State in order that policy development removes institutional barriers to Traveller participation in society. In order for a truly inclusive society to exist, Ireland’s statutory agencies need to recognise and resource Traveller ethnicity and culture. Where racism occurs, it needs to be challenged on an individual and institutional basis- and where legislation is not sufficient to act as a deterrence, ITM and other organisations need to lobby for change.
Generations of viewing Travellers as “failed settled people” has promoted racism against Travellers. This has impacted on every facet of Travellers’ lives, from lack of confidence in oneself to lack of belief in the community. The low status of Travellers in Irish society has profound effects on Travellers’ mental health and self-image, which has huge consequences for issues such as suicide, depression and also physical signs of stress and trauma: blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems.
ITM members had identified worrying trends whereby Travellers, particularly younger Travellers, no-longer felt pride in their identity. Initiatives such as Traveller Pride week, and the Traveller Pride Awards, are measures developed to counter this and to recognise the huge contributions Travellers make to their own community and Irish Society, despite the institutional barriers.
ITM members also recognise that discussions on Traveller identity need to be inclusive to look at the diversity within the community and to create spaces to stimulate discussions and models for inclusive practices within our member organisations, underpinned by a commitment to the ITM Community.
In building an inclusive society, ITM recognises the need to build solidarity with non-Travellers in order that intercultural understanding can be built between both communities.
What we will do:
- Seek formal recognition of Traveller Ethnicity by the Irish State
- Challenge all instances of anti-Traveller racism in order that it becomes unacceptable
- Create and support ways for Travellers to celebrate and promote pride in their culture and identity, and in doing so, challenge negative stereotypes
- Create ways for Members to ensure the diversity within the Traveller community is reflected positively in all the work of the Movement, for men, women, LGBT Travellers, Travellers with disabilities and younger Travellers
- Ensure that Travellers are open in talking about the long-term impact of racism and its impact on their community
- Develop and promote ways of building an inclusive intercultural Ireland, including engaging with non-Travellers to build solidarity