The All Ireland Traveller Health Survey: A Community Perspective from Pavee Point
*Missie Collins, Pavee Point
Irish Travellers are a people with a separate identity, culture and history, although they are as fully Irish as the majority population. The name “Travellers” refers to a nomadic Irish ethnic group, native to Ireland for centuries.Travellers, Gypsies and Roma have some things in common. They share a nomadic tradition and its associated lifestyle, culture and values. Unfortunately, they also share a long history of persecution, rejection and social ostracism. There are an estimated 40,000 Travellers living on the island of Ireland. Travellers have their own language, called “cant” or “gammon”, which is sometimes referred to by academics as “shelta”. This is a language mostly used by Travellers to speak with each other. There are around 10,000 Travellers in the United States, with around 2,500 Travellers living in a place called Murphy Village, South Carolina. They are descendants of Travellers who left Ireland, mostly during the 1845–60. They have maintained a separate cultural identity, and several Irish Traveller traditions, including some usage of cant, devout Catholic faith, and strong communal ties. Irish Travellers still face racism today - whether it is being refused service in shops or bars or in trying to maintain their nomadic traditions which is actively discouraged by the laws and practices of local authorities. Irish Travellers experience poorer health than the general population. They have much shorter life expectancy, for men life expectancy at birth is the same as it was for the general population in the 1940s and the suicide rate for men is seven times that of the general male population. Infant mortality among Travellers is more than three times the rate observed in the general population. Pavee Point is a non-governmental organisation committed to the promotion and realisation of Travellers’ Human Rights. Pavee is a word used by Travellers to describe themselves. Pavee Point is a partnership of settled people and Travellers, working together and operates regionally, nationally and internationally to ensure that Irish Travellers and their counterparts are recognised and respected, that their human rights are implemented, and that inequalities and discrimination faced by Travellers are named and addressed. Pavee Point have been engaged with Traveller Health since 1994, when they piloted the first Primary Health Care for Travellers project (PHCTP’s), successfully training 16 Traveller women to become Community Health Workers, this was seen as a model of good practise in the National Traveller Health Strategy and has since been replicated in 40 other areas around the country, via the National Traveller Health Network, which is facilitated by Pavee Point. This network was used as the key infrastructure to facilitate the engagement of Travellers in the AITHS, from the scoping and mapping of Travellers, through the consultation process on the instruments, to the engagement in the study and the dissemination of the findings. In the second part of the plenary session, representatives from Pavee Point will give the context and perspective of the community on the All Ireland Traveller Health Survey, the engagement with the survey through all the stages of the research, and the impact of the research on the lives of the community told by the Travellers themselves via video from Dublin.