The Parish of the Travelling People
Response to ‘Travelling With Austerity’ – Report on Austerity Cuts and Future Prospects in the Traveller Community
(a copy of the report is available on www.paveepoint.ie/resources)
— Fr. Derek Farrell
“I can still remember the shock of two years ago. We had just heard the extent of the Education cuts. It seemed there must be some mistake – of 1200 teaching posts being cut 750 were in Traveller education. No evaluation, no consultation, no transition. No recognition of the progress achieved, or of positive trends in Traveller education as coming from such a low base still needing consolidation.
I have the same sense of shock reaction to the stark findings of this report. The figures really speak for themselves – but more needs to be said.
As parish priest of The Parish of the Travelling People, I am worried, hearing with increasing regularity the worries and concerns of the community: what is going on? what has the Traveller community done to suffer this disproportionate level of austerity and disinvestment? The human cost of this austerity then, is not just the burden of extra financial strain and loss of services, but also includes the burden of negative feelings like confusion, bewilderment, powerlessness, hopelessness.
The Traveller community, already coming from a position of deep historical and ongoing disadvantage, deserves and needs ongoing recognition, affirmation and support – not just at individual and family level, but also at community level.
As parish, we work in closely with many Traveller organisations, services and local community groups. We see and often feel the benefit of much of their good work. We see too their struggle to maintain services due to cuts, and to minimise the damage done to Traveller infrastructure.
As parish, we aim to walk with, affirm and support the community. We are privileged to share in the joys and hopes of many on a day to day basis. We try to recognize and promote the wide-ranging qualities, contributions, and achievements of Travellers. At the same time we often share closely in the grief, burdens and anxieties being carried. On any one day in the Parish we are very likely to see at first hand the effects of austerity among those we meet who are in need:
Traveller families and young couples being forced to move to private rented accommodation when no Traveller accommodation is made available; increasing numbers of homeless; individuals and families where austerity badly effects basic provision of food and shelter, mental health and overall well-being; those Traveller families experiencing education difficulties both around their children’s transition to second level and then in keeping them from dropping out – as was clearly forewarned prior to the loss of the specialist supports to young people, families and schools.
At that time of the Education cuts in 2011, particularly in regard to the Visiting and Resource Teachers for Travellers, we along with various Traveller organisations and many teachers, called (in vain) for good sense and justice to prevail.
Now, as the full extent of direct cuts across the entire Traveller sector emerges, we once again and with renewed urgency send out that call for the proper remedial and restorative measures needed in Education, and beyond.
Recent political discourse at European and national level has begun to bring greater focus to the issues of social inclusion and the human cost in the effects of austerity especially on those who experience disadvantage. I believe that the clarity of this report’s findings can help those reviewing and making decisions around austerity to sharpen that focus, hopefully at the same time bearing in mind the Irish Catholic Bishops view in their document ‘From Crisis to Hope’ that: ‘the task of every government.. is to ensure that their policies serve the common good by protecting the weak and vulnerable, and by promoting integral human development for everyone.”