3rd March, 2017

Local members of Extern’s Cavan Traveller Primary Health Care Project were special guests of Minister Heather Humphreys at Dáil Éireann this week, as Taoiseach Enda Kenny made a statement recognising the Irish Travelling community as an ethnic minority for the first time.

As the leading social justice charity on the island of Ireland, Extern, supported by the HSE, created the Traveller Primary Health Care Project in Moynehall, Cavan, to improve the health outcomes of Travellers in the Cavan and Monaghan areas.

Focusing on areas including mental health, cardiovascular health, screening, dental health, addiction, healthy cooking, and domestic violence, the Extern team have been campaigning for many years for the recognition of Traveller ethnicity.

The recognition now means that Travellers will have their heritage, culture and identity formally recognised by the State, and that anti-Traveller discrimination will now be understood as racism.

Speaking of what the historic decision means for the Traveller community in Cavan and Monaghan, Eileen Maughan, Extern Traveller Health worker, said: “This means a more hopeful future for our community, for our families and importantly for our children and grandchildren. This will go down in Irish history as one of the biggest actions of the Government for Ireland, and the people of Ireland. While in the Dáil I felt sad as I thought about all the Travellers, over the last 30 years, who campaigned for this but who have since passed away and so aren’t here to see this wonderful day.”

Ita Madden, Co-ordinator of the Extern Traveller Primary Health Care project, based in Moynehall, Cavan, has been campaigning for the rights of Travellers since she was 18, when she was on the committee of Cairde na Ngael, and living in London. Speaking after the Ministerial statements, she said: “This was a historical and special week for Travellers and Traveller Activists from all over Ireland. They have campaigned endlessly for decades for the recognition of Traveller ethnicity. Our Extern team in Cavan were instrumental in supporting the campaigning around this, and in gaining hundreds of signatures for petitions and other initiatives over the years, and I am delighted for them.

“I hope we can now work, in a really meaningful way, supported wholly by Government and local Councils, on tackling the issues that Travellers face daily in Ireland, including poor health, unemployment, inequalities and discrimination to name but a few. The work must continue and we have to remain focused to ensure Traveller children in the future experience real equality in action.”

Tomas Maughan, Chairperson, Cavan Traveller Interagency and Cavan Traveller Mens Shed, was also a guest of Minister Humphreys in the Dáil. He added:

“I never thought I would be present to hear Mr Kenny say it was a historic day for Travellers and a proud day for Ireland. Those of us who were lucky enough to get into the gallery applauded and gave a standing ovation. It was a magnificent occasion and there were smiles and tears all at the same time.”

Further information on Extern’s Cavan Traveller Primary Health Care Project is available by telephoning +353 (0)868372882