CULTURE

Fellows in Persecution: Two months with the Irish Travellers

 

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Pavee Point Home Office

Emma Danks-Lambert

Number of romantic remnants of a bygone age living in a closed-off, inaccessible community spotted: 0

Number of horses spotted: 1

Pavee* Point Traveller and Roma Centre is located in North Dublin, in a building that shows up on Pokemon Go as the Free Church that it was prior to conversion.

There is a parking lot for the cars that the employees and visitors drive in and no space for wagons. In the kitchen, where endless cups of tea and coffee are brewed, you’ll find people gathering for lunch chatting about recent events in the news, sports, or discussing their lives; the conversations are carried out in English, Irish English but still, one of the most commonly spoken languages across Europe and the world.

I volunteered at Pavee Point for two months and the experience was educational and eye-opening.

There is a combination of employees and volunteers at Pavee Point, some are Traveller and some are settled people**. To the eyes of an Australian who was encountering Travellers for the very first time, there is no visible difference between this minority and the mainstream Irish population. Yet whatever difference there is has left uncountable generations of people facing discrimination in every aspect of their lives from birth until death.

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Irish Travellers in 1954

Still, in spite of the ramifications of this discrimination, in spite of the fact that when discussed in the media, Pavee and Roma are either romanticized as nomadic wanderers or demonized as trouble-makers, everyone I met was eagerly striving to improve their communities. Through art projects, community gardens, health-education programmes, surveys, information sessions and whatever forms that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of Traveller and/or Roma are carried out. I visited a halting site*** and was welcomed warmly, I encountered an issue with accents- namely, mine- Australian is almost a language in itself rather than a butchered version of English.

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Traveller Rights Activists

I was asked about my time in Dublin, my studies and the treatment of Aboriginal Australians by our government and our people- all this while leaning against a wall, chatting while my supervisor for the day was off working. I was at first surprised by the avid interest shown by the Travellers in the Aboriginal Australians, which went beyond my general knowledge and into policies and programmes, before realizing that the interest was in fellow persecuted minorities. In peoples who faced similar hardships for no other reason than that they had been born and existed. As a Caucasian Australian whose only close encounter with discrimination has been trying to get through Border Control into the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, I can’t speak on behalf of the Pavee or the Roma any more than I could speak on behalf of Aboriginal Australians, nor would I want to. All I can speak of is my admiration for anyone who can face such odds in life and instead of giving up, will instead try to find a way forward for themselves and their people while still maintaining a sense of humor and openness towards anyone who can see past the incorrect stereotypes.

*Pavee- The word for Traveller in Cant. **Settled People- Non- Travellers                      ***Halting site- Traveller housing site.      

Click here for more by Emma Danks-Lambert .

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(Europe needs all its voices to weather the challenges faces it today. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to stand up for your Europe. Join the FREE online course, ‘European Culture and Politics’ starting September 26.)

To learn more about the work of Pavee Point, click here

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