Thursday, February 02, 2006

Traveller Rights

On 9th December 2005, High Court damages of €120,000 were awarded against the State to the parents of 15-year old Lewis O’Carroll, an autistic boy, to compensate for the breach of his right to education and care to date. In addition, the state has committed to the provision of an agreed programme of education for Lewis at unquantified expense. Presumably the associated legal costs in the case, to be borne by the State, are substantial.

I was reminded of this case by today’s report that only 27% of Traveller girls attend any second-level school, and only 2% actually sit the Leaving Cert. Most of the others drop out after the Junior Cert, but 3 out of 4 never attend any secondary school.

In addition to this huge educational black hole, many traveller families live in squalor on temporary sites with limited access to “normal” domestic facilities. Their general health and life expectancy are considerably worse than the settled community and their job prospects are extremely limited, perhaps non-existent. In effect, they are condemned to relive the deprivation and exclusion endured by their parents and, if nothing is done, their children will too.

It can only be a matter of time before the State is sued for failing in its duty to these traveller citizens. Watch out then for the Class Actions and the Tribunals of Inquiry into the failure of the state. The compensation and legal bills will undoubtedly rival those currently arising under the Residential Institutions Redress Board.

We’re very sanctimonious about the neglect and abuse in those residential homes 40, 50 or 60 years ago, at a time when the country was broke and society was considerably less liberal and enlightened. No such excuses can be offered today and our children will be outraged to listen to the stories of what we have allowed to be done, or not done, in our name and in our time.

Footnote: A slightly modified version of the above was published as a letter in the Irish Examiner.

No comments:

Blog Archive