Southside Travellers Action Group (STAG) organisation was founded in 1984 by Travellers and settled people in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown supporting and representing Travellers at local and national level. It envisions an Ireland where Travellers' rights and distinct cultural identity is acknowledged and respected. It seeks to realise its vision through the design, development and delivery of a number of integrated programmes which respond to the needs of Travellers in Dun-Laoghaire–Rathdown, operating in the context of social inclusion and community development and guided by the principle of Traveller leadership/participation. It employs 36 staff and 20 trainees of 70% of which are Travellers based in Southside Travellers' resource centre in Sandyford Industrial Estate and caters for approximately 140 Travellers living in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.
All our work and our programmes provide options and availability to Travellers from the age of 10 years and upwards, specific occasional youth programmes are delivered throughout the year to under 10’s. We provide and give the opportunity for Travellers to engage and avail of our services. Our unique programmes are designed, delivered and created to ensure that all our work has a cultural Traveller led approach to ensure effective participation and access is achieved through programmes in education, employment, heath and youth programmes.
Core Programmes and supports
Local Training Initiative (LTI TASK) Fetac QQI Level 4 employment Skills
Travellers Health Unit (THU) Primary Health Care (PHC)
Community Employment Scheme (CE)
Children’s & Young Peoples programme (CYPP)
Accommodation, Community & Advocacy support outreach programme (CLO)
About Irish Travellers
Irish Travellers are an indigenous minority who, historical sources confirm, have been part of Irish society for centuries. Travellers long shared history, cultural values, language, customs and traditions make them a self-defined group, and one which is recognisable and distinct. Their culture and way of life, of which nomadism is an important factor, distinguishes them from the sedentary (settled) population.
There are an estimated 31,000 Travellers in Ireland, making up more than 4,485 Traveller families. This constitutes approximately 0.7% of the total national population. It is estimated that an additional 15,000 Irish Travellers live in Britain, with a further 10,000 Travellers of Irish descent living in the US.
Culture is not static and solely based in the past, but an interplay between tradition and emerging new ideas.
Traveller culture and identity is constantly changing and adapting. Some aspects of change happen as society changes globally. Other changes are forced upon the community-for example, legislative changes that have had huge negative impacts on Traveller culture: nomadism effectively criminalised through the Trespass legislation. changed laws governing market trading and laws covering horse ownership. These laws have meant that traditional aspects of Traveller culture are almost impossible to express. Despite these policies, which have had serious impacts on the community. Travellers continue to see themselves as Travellers and show pride in their identity and heritage.
Marginalisation of Travellers
Travellers, as individuals and as a group, experience a high level of prejudice and exclusion in Irish society. Many have to endure living in intolerable conditions, such as lack of access to basic facilities of sanitation, water and electricity. This leads to ongoing health problems among the Traveller community. The All Ireland Traveller Health Study 2010 revealed that Traveller men live, on average, 15 years less than settled men, while Traveller women live on average 11 years less than their settled peers. Discrimination and its effects are a daily feature of Travellers lives.
Who are the Irish Travellers?
There are many different groups within the Traveller community. One of the largest is Irish Travellers.
Irish Travellers are recognised as an ethnic group in the Equality Act due to their distinct culture and identity.
Travellers are often characterised by a nomadic lifestyle where they move from one place to another. This is compared with the general population who usually follow a settled lifestyle and live in one place.
However, not all Travellers are nomadic. And even those who sometimes have to adopt a settled lifestyle due to old age, health needs, or education needs.
So being part of the Traveller community is about more than being nomadic, as Traveller activist, Michael McDonagh, explained in Dr Colm Power’s report on England’s Irish Travellers:
“When Travellers speak of Travelling, we mean something different from what country people [sedentary people] usually understand by it […]. For Travellers, the physical fact of moving is just one aspect of a nomadic mind-set that permeates every aspect of our lives. Nomadism entails a way of looking at the world, a different way of perceiving things, a different attitude to accommodation, to work, to life in general.”
Irish travellers have poorer health outcomes than the general population
Irish Traveller life expectancy estimates are shocking.
Data from the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study suggest that Traveller men have a life expectancy of only 63 years (vs 78 in the general population). For Traveller women, that figure is 71 years (vs 82 in the general population). This means Irish Travellers die about 11-15 years earlier than the general population.
The gap in healthy life expectancy is even more striking. Irish Travellers will experience 16-17 more years of poorer health than the general population, and they are more likely to be categorised as disabled.
Mental health is also worse among Travellers. 60% of Travellers said that their mental health was not good enough for one day or more in the last 30 days (vs 20% in the general population).
Suicide is a real issue, with a suicide rate for Travellers that is 6-7 times higher than in the general population.
Irish Traveller health is worse for three main reasons.
The underlying reasons for the inequalities we see in Irish Traveller health are multiple, complex and inter-related.
But put simply, Irish Travellers are more likely to develop certain conditions in the first place, have less access to health services, and have low uptake of health services when they are available.
First, social, environmental and economic factors mean Irish Travellers are more likely to develop health conditions.
The Irish Traveller community have many risk factors for developing chronic conditions, such as lower socioeconomic status. For example, unemployment rates amongst Travellers are as high as 80% (vs 13% in the general population).
It’s not only demographic differences at play however. Travellers still have worse health even when these are accounted for, so there are other reasons too.
Discrimination itself has been linked with poor health.
Compounding this, Travellers have many cultural, psychological and environmental factors that can make it harder to adopt healthy habits. For example, over-eating is encouraged through things like catering for a large extended family and chubbiness is seen as a sign of a healthy child.
Travellers often experience racism and social exclusion when they attempt to exercise, for example at gyms. Women in particular have little opportunity to exercise due to traditional gender roles that encourage family commitments.
Mental health can be impacted by the same factors as physical health. On top of this, reasons for poor mental health include poor physical health, bereavement and discrimination. This is impacted further by the stigma attached to mental illness within the Traveller community that can stop those who need help from getting it.
Second, Irish Travellers experience lower levels of access to healthcare.
Regularly moving locations can make it hard to engage with health care, whether moves are by choice or enforced due to local regulations.
This is partly because of practical reasons. Most GPs need a permanent address to register patients. Health records aren’t easily and quickly accessible nationally so patient notes often can’t be accessed.
It’s also because constantly changing providers make continuity of care difficult and it’s easy for people to fall through the gaps of services.
Some of these access issues could be deemed unconscious institutional racism. Pavee Point, an organisation that aims to improve the human rights of Irish Travellers, explains this as…
“Processes that consciously or unconsciously result in the systematic exclusion of minority ethnic groups. It is most visible in the inequitable outcomes for minority ethnic groups from the policies and practices of organisations and institutions throughout society.”
Third, there’s usually low uptake of health services among Irish Travellers.
Irish Travellers often don’t want to engage with health care because of a fatalist attitude towards treatable health conditions, low expectations around good health, and a common belief that health care professionals cannot substantially improve health.
In a 2010 study, only 41% of Travellers “completely trusted the health care professional treating [them]” (vs 82% in general population).
There’s also a common attitude towards close-knit extended families taking care of health problems themselves.
Then when Travellers do want to engage with health services, it is made difficult for them by a system and professionals who don’t understand or cater for their needs.
This is often compounded and perpetuated by negative experiences and high levels of overt racism. For example, receptionists can be a barrier to get past and health professionals can have low expectations of the Traveller patient and their health.
Effort is needed from all sides to improve this
Policy is often integral to reducing inequality. Yet, like other itinerant groups, Irish Travellers are often forgotten about in health care policy.
Even though they are a recognised ethnic group, Travellers are not mentioned in most government initiatives. This reveals a woeful oversight.
Simplified Data believe that everybody should have access to evidence-based medical treatment. This mission ties in with Justice Studio’s understanding that health disparities like those witnessed in Traveller populations are issues of social injustice. We know that health outcomes are not necessary facts of biological makeup, but result from social, economic, and environmental drivers as well.
For groups who are at the margins of society, disproportionate health risks are embodied, lived experiences of broader social and political injustices.
To really see improvements in health, it will be vital to break down some of the barriers between Irish Travellers and health professionals.
This will need to be written into health policy and will require more education for health care professionals around the specific health needs of Travellers. There are examples of fantastic work being done to improve Traveller health that are mostly led by or operated in partnership with the Traveller community.
The complicated problem of Irish Traveller health will require complex solutions. But the gains that could be made by reducing the huge health inequalities experienced by Irish Travellers would be well worth the effort.
Link to https://justicestudio.org/what-are-the-health-inequalities-faced-by-irish-travellers-and-how-can-we-overcome-them