Irish Travellers claim racism against them 'totally embedded in society' as 'mental health crisis' bites

Traveller David Friel says it's difficult for them to "pass as a member of the settled population"

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Irish Travellers say racism against them is “totally embedded in society” as the mental health crisis among the community is laid bare.

David Friel, 24, is a Traveller from County Donegal and one of very few from the community to achieve a masters degree.

Mr Friel believes Travellers trying to pass as a member of “the settled population” find it “very, very difficult".

He said: "It's trying to pass as a member of the settled population. So, you're not being your true authentic self. That mentally is very, very difficult.

The mental health crisis within Irish Travellers continues to bite
The mental health crisis within Irish Travellers continues to bite
Travellers are "not represented" in the police force, according to David Friel
Travellers are "not represented" in the police force, according to David Friel

"You're living two lives, and no one can maintain that."

He continued: "The traditional means of employment have been obliterated – tinsmithing, or hawking, or gathering whelks or scrap.

"If you don't have employment, it's very difficult to sustain animals.

"It is totally embedded in Irish society to accept racism against Travellers.

"If we look at the media, if we look at the Gardai (Irish police) we look at teachers, we look at politics, we're not represented.

"It's about having Travellers at the table, having meaningful dialogue and having the narratives from within the community."

His comments to the BBC came as the Irish Travellers Movement reveal the difference between suicide rates in Travellers compared to non-Travellers.

Rose Marie Maughan, who works for the national network says: "Our suicide rate is seven times higher than non-Travellers.

"Only three percent of us live past the age of 65 and 80 percent of us are unemployed.

"If that was any other community in Ireland, there would be international attention."