Ireland

(Irish Republic)
   Estimated population of Irish Travelers: 45,000 in caravans and houses. They form a separate social group and are distinguished by mainstream Irish society even when they are settled in houses. About 1,500 families live in camps run by local councils or all-Traveler housing schemes; 2,000 are in standard municipal housing, while some 1,000 nomadize or settle on unofficial sites. No figures are collected for those who have made their own provision in housing or private camp sites. Their main occupation is recycling waste material. There is considerable discrimination, for example, in entry to hotels and bars. A farmer who recently battered and then shot a Traveler he found on his property in Cross was cleared of murder.
   In 1960 the Irish government established a Commission on Itinerancy, whose report was published three years later. This report was the basis for a later assimilation program. Around this time, a civil rights movement emerged among the Travelers.
   In 1963 a school for Travelers, St. Christopher's School, was built by Johnny MacDonald and others on an unofficial site at the Ring Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin. On 6 January 1964 it was burned down by Dublin Corporation employees, together with several huts used as accommodations. The school was later rebuilt on Cherry Orchard.
   At the end of 1963, the Itinerant Action Group was set up to fight for better living conditions and access to education. The first demand was for a water supply at the Ring Road site. In 1981 Travelers took a test case to the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They claimed that their constitutional right to educate their children was denied by their being moved constantly without caravan sites being available. Families sought the ruling that they could not be evicted unless an alternative site was provided. The court ruled favorably. So, in that same year, a new report was requested, and the Travelling People Review Body was set up by the minister of health. It consisted of 24 members, including representatives of the National Council for Travelling People (a network of settlement committees) and three Travelers. Its remit was to review current policies and services for the "travelling people" to improve the existing situation. The thrust of the council's 1983 report, like that of 1963, was the need to provide official stopping places for the Travelers' caravans and to help with education and employment.
   The Task Force on the Travelling People was set up in 1993 and published yet another report two years later. In March 1996 a National
   Strategy for Traveller Accommodation was announced to provide 3,100 units of accommodation. This would consist of 1,200 permanent caravan pitches, 1,000 transit pitches, and 900 houses. A Traveller Accommodation Unit was established at the Department of the Environment to oversee the strategy. It was intended to initiate legislation that would require local authorities to draw up five-year plans for Traveler accommodation. This emerged in the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act of 1998.
   Provision of caravan sites has been slow, and only some 850 units of accommodation have been provided. Nevertheless, in 2002 the government introduced the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which made trespass a criminal act. The Irish Travellers Movement picketed the Dáil (Parliament) on 2 July to protest against the law. Many Travelers have been evicted from unauthorized camps, and in some cases their caravans were confiscated, forcing them to sleep in their cars.
   The real effect of this Housing Act has not been to start an exodus to mainland Britain, as some predicted, but to create intolerable conditions on already existing local-authority accommodation. Over the first three years after the passing of the Act, the number of Traveler families living on unauthorized sites - that is, the roadside-has fallen from about 1,000 to 630, while at the same time the numbers of families living on temporary official sites or sharing bays/pitches with other family members on official sites has increased by some 400. This would indicate that families in fear of the trespass legislation have opted to move on to already overcrowded or poorly serviced legal sites.
   From 1999 to 2002 the government funded the Citizen Traveller Campaign to improve the negative attitude of the public toward Travelers. The main self-help organizations are the Irish Travellers Movement and Pavee Point (previously known as the Dublin Traveller Education and Development Group). There is also a national coordinator employed by the Department of Education.
   See also Northern Ireland.

Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . .

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