The publication yesterday of a survey of the Traveller and Roma communities across six European countries is a timely document, coming as a new framework for Traveller and Roma inclusion is being finalised by the European Union.
It includes the views of Roma and Travellers in Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.
The survey will come as no surprise to the Traveller community here. It shows that two-thirds of Irish Travellers feel discriminated against because of their ethnicity. The European Union Agency of Fundamental Rights, which led the survey, also found that almost half of the general population in Ireland feels uncomfortable with having members of the Traveller and Roma communities as neighbours.
It would be expected that the results of this survey should lead to condemnation against the settled community, but what good has that ever done? For generations in Ireland the issue of Travellers has been seen as one of Us and Them, with the travelling community seen as a ‘problem’ to be solved.
Far better to use this survey as a springboard to ensure that solutions to poor housing, inadequate education and unemployment are worked on together, with Traveller leaders working with government agencies, settled community groups and NGOs to change the narrative of Travellers here.
We cannot change the past but changing the present approach could ensure a better, more inclusive, future for all.