Hello, my name is Rachel Coffey, proud Traveller and newest member of NYCI’s Equality and Intercultural team.
I would like to extend a very Happy Traveller Pride 2023 to all our members, colleagues at NYCI and especially to our young Travellers. Our young people are creative, kind, open minded and need support from us all to allow them build confidence, celebrate their identity, and become the next generation of change makers through the values and power of youth work.
Let’s embrace, celebrate and hold these young people so that they can participate like any other Irish young person and be welcomed without any assumptions.
Happy Traveller Pride
What is Traveller Pride?
Traveller Pride is an annual celebration to recognise and celebrate the Irish Traveller community. It is officially launching this year on the 3rd of July and runs for a week or so. Activities will happen regionally across Ireland.
As a Traveller woman, Traveller Pride week means so much to me as it showcases all the fantastic culture, creativity, and knowledge our community holds. It also does not forget, that as a community, we still face barriers everyday, particularly our young people who you may work with in your youth services.
Traveller Pride brings not just the Traveller community together but all those who support and work alongside Traveller organisations and with our young people. Each year we see more youth organisations supporting inclusive youth work and embracing single identity spaces for young Travellers which gives me hope that in the future we won’t see so many of our young people worrying they will be rejected, turned away or not understood in the services they access.
What can you do as a youth worker to support Traveller Pride 2023?
I have spent several years on the ground working with young Travellers as a youth worker before I joined NYCI which involved working closely with many youth workers to ensure staff, young people and families had the support they needed. By doing so as an ethnic minority youth worker and with the support of the NYCI Equality and Intercultural Programme I have seen first-hand the excellent practice in working with young Travellers that can be achieved. There are many examples on how youth workers can support young Travellers during Traveller Pride. Events include making Traveller Pride posters, attending workshops on our traditional language, Cant and Gammon etc. To see more ideas and find out about events in your area, go to www.thecomplex.ie/event-details/traveller-pride.
The work done in the youth work sector with our young people goes beyond the week’s events to all year-round engagement. Reaching out to NYCI and asking me for support and advice is always welcomed.
How can we better embrace young Irish Travellers in the youth work sector?
When we as youth workers or professionals embrace differences and understand the “other” we can effortlessly support all young people within our youth services and promote inclusive safer spaces for them to grow and be accepted. When I speak to young ethnic minorities, they say things like “I don’t see anyone or anything representing me and my identity in the youth group” and it makes them feel they are not accepted or not wanted so they do not enter the youth spaces in fear of rejection.
As part of our work in the Equality and Intercultural program we deliver trainings such as the ‘8 Steps to inclusive Youth Work’. This training for youth work organisations focuses on developing a deep understanding of how young ethnic minorities face exclusion and injustice. It looks at various aspects of inclusive practice including thinking about the spaces we create and the representation of our communities. For example, by making one small change such as hanging up a poster on Travellers, can support them to participate without fear of judgment and discrimination. See Equality & Intercultural – National Youth Council of Ireland
Supporting young Travellers by adopting a deeper understanding of discrimination and injustice?
I believe that key to inclusive practice is gaining a better understanding of the injustices on our community. See page 78 in our the ‘8 steps to Inclusive Youth Work’ manual which shows the four dimensions of social injustice that impact our young people and prevents them living their lives to the fullest. It demonstrates how the manifestation of discrimination and racism towards Travellers is historical, structural, institutional and individual. Using the quadrant as a tool will give you a deeper understanding of the systemic oppression experienced by young Travellers you work with.
Irish Travellers face many forms of discrimination particularly through institutional racism and policies. Castell, Jaichand & Higgins (2006) discuss many areas of policy discrimination towards Travellers including: The Trespass Act (2002) which prevented and failed to acknowledge the Nomadic Lifestyle of Travellers; and the Control of Horses Act 1996, which has had huge impact on the young men in the community and their mental health.
The historical racism we experience is demonstrated in the 1963 Commission Report on Itinerants which is a startling reminder of the depth of racism shown towards Travellers when we read the language and hate speech used. Today we still see negative comments similar to those in the Commission Report. As an example of the level of structural oppression we face in our community, let’s not forget Peter Casey in the presidential elections in 2019 and how he spoke so badly about the community.
A fantastic resource that will support youth workers to tackle individual acts of racism is our newly edited ‘Transforming Hate Manual’ and its companion activity manual called ‘Beyond Hate’ Transforming Hate in Youth Work Settings – National Youth Council of Ireland. Training on Transforming Hate is also available on request to youth organisations.
I would encourage and urge all our members, partners and youth sector colleagues to come out and support this year’s Traveller Pride events. A list of this year’s events are available on the following link www.thecomplex.ie/event-details/traveller-pride.
* The Traveller community are indigenous to Ireland. When people hear the word “Traveller” many assume that our community travelled from another country to Ireland but that is not the case. The term Traveller was used by the settled population to describe us when the community freely travelled as nomadic people; this part of our culture is now prevented under government polices. Tinkers or Minceirs are the terms most used in our community; these tie back into our native traditional language used by the community, Cant or Gammon.
Castell, Jaichand & Higgins,(2006), “Translocations: The Irish Migration Race and Social Transformation Review”. Vol:1, Issue 1. PP 39-150