Pavee Point and the Irish Travellers

10 Dec

On November 22, the class visited Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Center.  Pavee Point was founded in the 1980’s when oppression of the Traveller community peaked. The center’s main focus is to promote civil rights for and legislation in favor of ethnic minorities in Ireland. The speakers that were at our presentation represented the Traveller community, and mainly spoke of growing up as a Traveller. In recent years, traditional nomadic living of the Travelling community has become illegal because of legislation restricting the use of public parking. One of our speakers, however, was old enough to remember when she and her family would travel around Ireland looking for seasonal jobs on farms, and selling tin hardware they crafted. The other speaker was a male teenager who has unfortunately experienced the continued discrimination against Travellers. Many Travellers that have moved into “Settled” areas have found neighbors to quickly move away or maintain a very distant relationship out of fear, hatred and misunderstanding of their culture.

One of the main goals of the advocacy center is to push the Irish government to officially recognize Travellers and Roma as an ethnic minority.  As of right now, the Irish government does not recognize Travellers and Roma as ethnic groups. Rather, they see their traditions as a choice. However, legally both groups should be considered ethnic gropus because they fulfuill the two requirements: a common history that separates their group from others and a unique culture (McVeigh). In addition, one cannot simply decided to be Traveller, one has to be born a Traveller (Traveller Heritage). Because of the incredible amount of discrimination, all aspects of Traveller life have been affected, for example, education and health. School expectations are low therefore many teachers do not spend time helping Traveller children resulting in early dismissal from schools. Because of low education levels, knowledge of proper health and nutrition is not widespread, which results in a dramatically low life expectancy for Traveller men (Pavee Point). If these groups were treated as an ethnic group, government programs would be available for the Traveller and Roma community to reach the same goals as the majority of the population.

Traveller, Roma and other ethnic minorities such as these get a bad reputation. Like many stereotypes about certain groups, many stereotypes about Travelers are not true. Sadly, these notions are perpetuated via media like “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”, which airs on TLC. These portrayals are an exaggeration for the purpose of entertainment, but has had a significant negative effect on the way the world sees these people. 

“Are We an Ethnic Group?” Navan Travellers Workshops. Navan Travellers Workshops Ltd., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.travellerheritage.ie/areweanethnicgroup.asp&gt;.

McVeigh, Robbie. “Column: Denying Traveller Ethnicity Makes Ireland a Rogue State.” TheJournal.ie. Journal Media Ltd., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/irish-travellers-ethnicity-rights-627262-Feb2013/&gt;.

“Our Geels: All Ireland Traveller Health Study.” Pavee Point Traveller Roma Centre. Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, 23 Oct. 2007. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.paveepoint.ie/resources/our-geels-all-ireland-traveller-health-study/&gt;.

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