Saturday, January 5, 2008
Irish Travellers are a very small minority group in Ireland, constituting less than 1% of the population. Their numbers currently stand at approx. 23,000 people in the Republic and another 1,500 in the North. There are also an estimated 15,000 Irish Travellers in England, Scotland and Wales and 7,000 in the U.S.A.
The population structure of the Traveller community resembles that of a third world country, with large numbers of children and very few in the older age group. Poor health status, compounded by racist policies and practices, and exclusion from mainstream society are the causes of this situation. 50% of the population is under 15 years. Some health statistics revealed by the Health Status Report of the Health Research Board in 1987 are worth quoting;
Travellers have more than double the national rate of stillbirths.
Infant mortality rates are three times higher than the national rate.
Traveller women live, on average, 12 years less than settled women.
Traveller men live, on average, 10 years less than settled men.
Travellers' life expectancy is now at the level that settled people reached in the 1940's.
These are the statistics of racism, clearly demonstrating that Travellers' lives are effected in the most basic ways by their exclusion and marginalisation. Statistics relating to their educational levels reveal the same pariah status. Less than 14% currently make it into post-primary education and the number who have made it into third level can still be counted on one hand. The majority of the adults, 80%, are illiterate.
The Irish Travellers are the original direct decendants of the bronze age Irish tribes, their culture and language pre-date the settled folks (buffers).