Traveller body wound up after criticising State

A €1.2 million travellers’ rights campaign has been wound up because it failed to address the concerns of the settled community and State funds were used for ads critical of the Government.

State funding for the Citizen Traveller campaign was suspended during the summer after it ran advertisements criticising the Government's new criminal trespass legislation.

A value-for-money audit was subsequently ordered by the Department of Justice, which appointed consultants Talbot Associates to review the campaign’s activities.

The review, published yesterday, found Citizen Traveller had “represented the Traveller perspective exclusively and did not address the concerns of the settled community”.

It concluded the campaign had “failed to heal the divide” between Traveller and settled communities.

However, Talbot Associates said the objectives were unrealistic, given the limited time scale and resources available to the campaign.

It also said there had been considerable achievements in raising Traveller self-esteem and highlighting Traveller accommodation and education.

Citizen Traveller started in 1999 on the recommendation of the national Task Force on the Travelling Community. The campaign included public surveys, workshops, and radio, newspaper and billboard advertising campaigns on issues affecting Traveller life.

A company called Traveller Communications Committee Ltd was set up to run the campaign. The company was run jointly by the Irish Traveller Movement, Pavee Point, the National Traveller Women’s Forum and Parish of the Travelling People

The company had an annual budget of around 380,000 between 1999 and 2001 and had spent around 120,000 of this year's expected budget by the end of September, leaving it with current debts of over 40,000.

Talbot Associates described the campaign as “relatively inexpensive” in comparison with similar public policy campaigns.

But they also chronicled tensions which followed the campaign, beginning in summer 2001 when a large Traveller encampment in south Dublin attracted massive negative publicity.

The consultants said it was inappropriate to continue that season's campaign in the context of such widespread public concern.

Following that episode, an independent consultant, Katrina Goldstone, was appointed to review the campaign and she concluded in January this year that it was broadly successful.

But the campaign’s decision to lobby against legislation introduced in March, making trespass a criminal offence, attracted the ire of the Department.

The suspension of funding and the Talbot review were ordered on the basis that “to pay the funds would involve spending public funds to campaign against national legislation”. Pavee Point said they were unhappy with the way the decision was announced. “Citizen Traveller first heard about this when contacted by members of the press. Had the Government come back to Traveller organisations on this a way forward could have been clarified.” said director Ronnie Fay.

“It is also ironic that the Minister winds up Citizen Traveller during Anti-Racism in the Work Place Week when, due to discrimination, many Travellers have to hide their Traveller identity to access the jobs market,” said assistant director Martin Collins.

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