Activity: Step One: Ask participants to take out a sheet of paper and a pen, ask the group to reflect for a few minutes on which children in Ireland are most likely to suffer from violations of their rights and write down their views on a sheet of paper. Ask for a show of hands, who wrote down “traveller children”? There are many children whose rights are not adequately protected in Ireland as a group, however, Traveller children for many years have suffered from multiple forms of inequality. According to a report published in 2020, Traveller babies are three times more likely to die in their first year than infants in the settled population. Traveller teenagers and young adults are significantly more likely to smoke, drink alcohol or use cannabis. They are more likely to leave school early, marry at a younger age and have lower health and wellbeing indicators than the majority of Irish children.
Step Two: Ask participants to list what rights within the Convention on the Rights of the Child are likely jeopardised for Traveller children.
Step Three: Ask participants to record the year they were born on the sheet of paper and the number of years they have left of childhood (until they are 18).
Step Four: Read out the following excerpt from the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform “FIRST PROGRESS REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE TO MONITOR AND CO-ORDINATE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE TASK FORCE ON THE TRAVELLING COMMUNITY” 5 DECEMBER, 2000
“Life as a Traveller – The Reality
About one-quarter of all Traveller families continue to live out their day to day lives in very poor conditions. Five years after the publication of the Task Force Report, there is a lack of real improvement on the ground. This and the daily reality of discrimination makes it very difficult for a large section of the Traveller community to have faith in the promises contained within the recommendations of the Task Force Report. The words of the 1986 ESRI report “the circumstances of the Irish Travelling people are intolerable. No decent or humane society once made aware of such circumstances, could permit them to persist.” are still relevant in the year 2000. This is the case despite the huge efforts made at informing the general public of the position of the Traveller over the past twenty years. It raises very serious questions both at home and abroad of our society and why we have been unable to make significant improvements in the quality of life for the Traveller community.”
Step Five: Ask participants to record their age in 2005 on the sheet of paper and the number of years of childhood they have ahead of them.
Step Six: Ask a participant to read out the following excerpt from Michael D Higgins a Dáil debate on Wednesday, 30 November 2005.
“A five-year strategy has been published but in what conditions are families living? The 18 families living on the Carrowbrowne halting site must wash using a cold tap because no electricity or toilets, apart from portakabins, are available. A recently widowed woman, whose family featured on the news recently, is trying to rear her 11 children in these conditions. This is a flagrant violation of human rights and should be reported to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva as a complete failure on the part of the authorities
After the children at the site indicated that all they wanted for Christmas was electricity, my colleague, the former mayor of Galway, Councillor Catherine Connolly, proposed a resolution to this effect in Galway City Council. In fairness to the city councillors, the resolution was passed unanimously before last Christmas. When no action had been taken by March, councillors from all parties and independents unanimously passed a second resolution. The latest development is that council officials have produced a report on the state of the site suggesting that all the families at Carrowbrowne will have to move to another temporary site while work is carried out on the site. The proposed location to which the families are to be moved is in the control of Galway County Council. No planning permission has been approved for this site and no timescale has been given for the works at Carrowbrowne. Meanwhile, 18 families face Christmas with a cold tap and no electricity.
An outrageous falsehood has been perpetrated that the conditions at the site are not safe, even for temporary generators. Those who have skills in this area have indicated this is simply not the case and that part of the site could be refurbished while other parts were occupied. Parts of the site are kept in a wonderful condition by individual occupants.
I am not interested in hearing words about this issue. The families in question have been on the site for an average period of four years. Parents are trying to rear their children under the conditions I have described, which Galway City Council has addressed unanimously not once, but twice. Despite this, the council’s decision has not been implemented.
I welcome the Minister of State who will be aware that the Department has responsibility for requiring that local authorities meet their obligations on the housing of Travellers. What does the Government propose to do for the children in question this side of Christmas? As a Member of the Oireachtas who has drawn attention to conditions on the Carrowbrowne halting site in 1994, 2001, 2003 and again in 2005, I will try to seek advice to determine if we can legally prosecute the State for allowing conditions on the halting site to persist and the democratic will, as expressed by the local authority, to be frustrated and not implemented.
In recent days, looking at one of the widows living on the site, I asked myself how she can handle what she is going through with 11 children, a cold tap, no hot water, no permanent generator, a Portakabin, no proper toilets and so forth. It is a badge of shame on this country that despite the publication of photographs of the site ten years ago, several unanimous resolutions by Galway City Council, and an indication given to me in this House on one of two occasions when I raised the issue that the National Building Agency would complete the most urgent repairs within a month, nothing has been done. I ask the Minister of State to give me a timescale for putting an end to this disgrace”
Step Seven: Ask participants to record their age in 2010 on the sheet of paper and the number of years of childhood they have ahead of them.
Step Eight: Ask a participant to read out the following excerpt from Magill Magazine written on the 19th of February 2010.
“The Galway Traveller Movement carried out this research between 2007 and 2009 before the site was refurbished. It is a detailed analysis of the health of 101 residents on the site, with the findings a combination of residents’ experiences and medical records. It found that:
- The site had no electricity except for a generator that was off at night and very expensive to run
- The site had no hot water and the cold water came from 2 external cold water taps and a fire hydrant
- There were no plumbed toilets – the toilets were 22 old portaloos that were emptied twice a week
- The site was rat-infested
- The site was beside Headford Road, which has a speed limit of 100km an hour
- The site was on an old landfill site and beside a composting site
- The surface of the site was mostly gravel, which made it prone to flooding and made access to portaloos impossible
- There were no green areas, no play areas, far from shops and services and no footpaths
- There was no caretaking provision on site
- Emergency services were not able to access the site
While it is obvious living in such an environment would have very negative impacts on the residents’ health, what is significant about this research is that it is the first time that the relationship between Travellers’ accommodation and their health has been examined.
We know that Irish Travellers live about ten years fewer than their settled counterparts and that they experience greater levels of illness. This research clearly finds this from their medical records. Residents are much more likely to have higher rates of asthma, diabetes, kidney infections and anxiety and depression, as well as being more at risk of suffering accidental injury.”
Step Nine Ask participants to record their age in 2019 on the sheet of paper and the number of years of childhood they have ahead of them.
Step Ten: Ask a participant to read the following article by Kitty Holland from The Irish Times written on the 19th of February 2010.
Step Eleven: Feedback: Ask participants to reflect on the children who had grown up on the halting site in Carrowbrowne and how the conditions they were having to live in might have impacted out their childhood. What would you think having grown up in Carrowbowne, about the Government or how would you feel about settled people? How do you think you would feel going into school, would your concentration on learning/homework be impacted? Would this impact on your self-worth? What would you do to cope? Might this have long term consequences for them? Ask them to record their thoughts and feelings.
Step Twelve: End the activity with care and consideration for the information shared and the emotions that might have resulted. Inform participants that not all Travellers have experiences like this. This is an example of an extreme situation. Ask participants what they could do to change the situation. Here are a few suggestions:
- Go to the Irish Traveller Movement and earn more about Traveller history and culture. Know the facts about their discrimination in Ireland.
- Celebrate diversity and inclusion by following the Yellow Flag Programme in your school.
- Challenge friends and family when you hear misinformation or discrimination.
- Show your solidarity and support Traveller movements.