The Traveller Community
Irish Travellers are:
- Indigenous to Ireland
- Irish ethnic origin
- Long shared history
- Shared set of customs and traditions
- Common ancestry
- Shared language
- Being subjected to oppression and discrimination
The Traveller community are an Irish ethnic minority nomadic people. According to the last census, taken in 2010, there are 40,000 Travellers living in Ireland today. The Traveller community represents less than 1% of the sedentary population and Traveller population demographics mirror Third World statistics.
Age Profile compared to general population
|Age Groups||General Population||Travellers|
There are an estimated 15,000 Irish Travellers living in Britain. Irish Travellers are also living in various other counties within the European Union, Nordic counties, Australia and the United States of America.
The Traveller community has been recorded in the story of Ireland for centuries. In historical accounts as far back as 12th century we find references to a nomadic people who travelled within Ireland.
The family and the extended family are central to the Traveller community. The extended family is important in the lives of the individual and the community. People tend to live within extended family groups. This family group could contain grandparents, parents, siblings, their partners and sometimes other members of their extended family. Strong family bonds and a sense of responsibility one has to one’s family is important to the Traveller community. The concept that it takes a village to raise a child is a reflection of the practice of the Traveller community in relation to how families relate to each other. Travellers organise themselves in families. “Working at your family ties is the key to Traveller identity.” The Traveller community has a strong sense of identity and community.
- Mainstream employment
- Income generated by the family
- People run businesses from home
The Traveller community has always had a strong work ethic. In the past the community would be mostly self-employed. The Traveller community has always been interested in buying, selling and trading. Today more and more Travellers are entering into the mainstream workplace, in various types of work. Buying, selling and trading are still popular means of employment.
Given a wish list for the future, more than 90% of Traveller people wish for:
- Greater participation by Traveller children in secondary schools
- More Travellers working in full-time jobs alongside settled people(Citizen Traveller 1999)
Formal education is becoming more the norm within the community with many young people finishing second level and adults returning to education such as basic literacy, further education, training courses and third level. There has been a vast improvement in the numbers of people attending formal education but there is still a long way to go in relation to young people attending third level on a wider scale. We are starting to see young Travellers enter the professional work field as Doctors, Teachers, Nurses, etc. They are still in the minority but in time more and more will follow.
Issues experienced by the Traveller community
The Traveller community remains one of the most socially excluded and disadvantaged groups in Irish society. Travellers fare poorly on every indicator used to measure disadvantage: unemployment, poverty, social exclusion, health status, infant mortality, life expectancy, literacy, education and training levels, access to decision making and political representation, gender equality, access to credit, accommodation and living conditions (ESRI Report). The Traveller community experiences high levels of prejudice & discrimination.
Travellers face a very high level of discrimination and racism in Irish society. This creates extra barriers for Travellers in accessing services. Research has shown that while there is high interest in entering the labour market in the Traveller Community, many Travellers have had to hide their Traveller identity to access employment. A national social survey commissioned by the ESRI from 2007 – 8 found that 40% of respondents would be unwilling to employ a Traveller and 1 in ten people in Ireland would both deny citizenship and ‘deport or debar’ Irish Travellers from Ireland (MacGréil 2010). Travellers face very high levels of social exclusion.
"Poor standards in accommodation and health are other major issues affecting the Traveller community. Traveller men on average die 15 years younger than settled men and Traveller women on average die 11 years younger than settled women in Ireland"
Our Geels: All Ireland Traveller Health Survey 2010
- Travellers of all ages have much higher mortality rates
- Traveller women live on average 7 years less than women in the general population
- Traveller men live on average 15 years less than men in the general population
Our Geels: All Ireland Traveller Health Survey, 2010
- Statistics continue to show health inequality
- Travellers are twice as likely as the general population to have diabetes and related conditions (2009)
- Traveller suicide rates for men is over 6 times the national average
- Infant mortality is 14.1% in the Traveller population, and 3.9% in the general population
- Fatal respiratory disease rates are 7.5 times higher in the Traveller population than the general population
- Heart disease and stroke rates are 4 times higher in the Traveller population than in the general population
Our Geels: All Ireland Traveller Health Survey, 2010
The Issues experienced by the Traveller community are widespread and pandemic.
Prejudice & Discrimination
The Traveller community continues to experience widespread prejudice and discrimination.
- “Prejudice is a set of negative personal beliefs about a social group that leads individuals to prejudge people from that group in general regardless of personal differences among members of that group.”
- Prejudice covers attitudes, stereotypes and assumptions
- Discrimination is the acting out of prejudice
- Prejudice + power to act = discrimination
- The Traveller community continues to experience high levels of social exclusion and disadvantage
- The Traveller community continues to experience racial discrimination both at the individual or interpersonal level and at the institutional level
However, Irish Travellers do not allow the issues and struggles that they face to define them individually or as a community. The Traveller community in Ireland consists of strong, proud, vibrant, creative people, with Travellers accessing education and training at all levels in ever increasing numbers.