Thursday, 3 October 2019

Questions (10)

Joan Burton

Question:

10. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to establish funding for artists, projects and institutions dedicated to highlighting the place of Traveller culture and history in Irish society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37909/19]

View answer

Oral answers (19 contributions) (Question to Justice)

In his final reply to the previous question, the Minister of State noted that the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is responsible for the budget relating to Travellers and Traveller culture. I tabled a question to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in which I inquired about her plans to establish funding for artists, projects and institutions dedicated to highlighting the place of Traveller culture and history in Irish society. The Minister refused to take the question and transferred it to the Department of Justice and Equality. That tells us what some people in this Government think. The Minister, Deputy Madigan, has form when it comes to objecting to Traveller housing. Is she also objecting to Traveller culture? I do not know if the Minister and the Minister of State opposite are aware of this. I tabled my question out of respect for the Traveller community and addressed it specifically to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

I support the highlighting of the place of Traveller and Roma culture and history in Irish society. The primary mechanism for this is Traveller and Roma Pride Week. I recently opened the Traveller Pride Awards, a wonderful event that celebrates Traveller and Roma culture. This event marked the beginning of Traveller Pride Week.

Action 1 of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 states "The Department of Justice and Equality will support, strengthen and expand Traveller Pride Week and increase national awareness of the event."

Funding is made available to a range of organisations, in grants of up to €2,000, through an open call for proposals to assist the Traveller and Roma communities to mark Traveller and Roma Pride Week. Applications for funding are granted for activities satisfying the following criteria: that they involve the active participation of members of the Traveller and-or Roma community at all stages of the project, planning, implementation, etc.; celebrate and promote Traveller and-or Roma culture; promote a positive image of Traveller and-or Roma Culture to the wider settled community; members of the settled community must be included and invited to the event; and that the event must be accessible to an open public audience where possible.

Funding has also been provided for a number of horse projects throughout the country. These projects are reflective of the Government’s acknowledgement of the importance of the horse culture for the health and wellbeing of the Traveller community and for the horses in their care.

In 2019, some 39 projects were approved to receive support from my Department as part of Traveller Pride Week. These include Galway Traveller Movement, Blanchardstown Traveller Development, Meath Travellers Workshops and Foróige Ballyhaunis Youth Service.

In July 2019, two elements of Traveller culture were inscribed on Ireland’s National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, specifically the Cant-Gammon language and tinsmithing. This represents a Government commitment to protect, promote and celebrate these living cultural heritage practices, customs, crafts and traditions. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is responsible for the delivery of funding to practices recognised on this list, through its cultural projects funding. However, the allocation of funding is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, and her Department.

The pride week is amazing. I am sure that the Deputy has attended pride week events and will join with me in acknowledging that.

This is a question of principle. I served as Tánaiste in the Government that recognised and acknowledged the ethnicity of Travellers. That was celebrated by all parties in the House. As Deputy Joan Collins mentioned, the all-party Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community has been established. It is a matter of recognising the significance of Travellers in Irish culture. The Minister of State just indicated that the Minister for Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht is responsible for the the budget. Will the Ministers, on behalf of the Government, apologise to Travellers for the fact that their colleague did this? She has form when it comes to Traveller housing and objected to such housing being provide in Mount Anville some time ago because the land in the area was too valuable to allow people such as Travellers to be housed on it. Will the Minister of State and the Minister for Justice and Equality apologise for this? This is what apartness and separation mean. Traveller artists are treated differently from other artists. I will not provide a list of such artists' names, I will simply draw attention to the achievements of Travellers in music, painting, art and the theatre in particular. Why did the Minister with responsibility for culture refuse to answer a perfectly valid question about Travellers and their culture when she is responsible for the budget relating to both?

This is a perfectly valid question about Travellers and Traveller culture. The Minister is responsible for that budget. I want an apology on behalf of the Traveller community.

I call Minister of State, Deputy Stanton.

Nobody has a better record than the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton.

I recognise fully the record of Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, and I do not associate the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, with any negativity that I am aware of in respect of Travellers.

The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will clarify the issue.

I am talking about his colleague, who sits at the Cabinet table.

There are other Deputies waiting and they have been here for some time.

As I said earlier, the national Traveller and Roma inclusion strategy is the current strategy we are implementing, in partnership and in conjunction with representatives of the Traveller community who sit on the steering committee that I chair. They are doing amazing work and part of that work is identifying how we can recognise, strengthen and engage with the history, culture and heritage of the Traveller community. It is really exciting work in many ways. What they are bringing to the table is very important not only in this area but in the area of education, housing, health, mental health and so on, right across the board. The officials from all Departments represented on it are really engaged. We recently had a report on accommodation, which the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government was very anxious to receive, and it is being considered by him at the moment. He received it in September and we are expecting positive results from the implementation of that report.

The Minister for Health has been doing a lot of work in this area. I am particularly interested in education and ensuring children can go to school and celebrate their culture in school. The Minister for Education and Skills has been doing work that area, as the Deputy knows.

The Minister for Education and Skills, in fairness to him, has been willing to answer questions on Traveller children and education. Why is the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who holds a very honoured title in the Government, nationally and internationally, refusing to answer a question about Travellers and culture. It is a very simple question. It is an insult that she would refuse to take it. I have no problem with Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, who is dedicated to the work he does for Travellers, but this House, as a collective, recognised Travellers as a separate ethnic group in March 2017. It was one of the proudest days in this House and the Visitors Gallery was filled with people from the Traveller community. A significant member of the Cabinet refuses to take a question, notwithstanding the fact the Minister of State said twice or three times that she is responsible for the budget in respect of Travellers and culture.

The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, can only speak for himself and maybe the Deputy will get an opportunity at a later stage to speak with the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and I will be guided what he just said. I acknowledge that the Deputy opposite recognised the important work being done by the Minister for Education and Skills and the former Minister, Deputy Bruton, on Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill 2018, which was produced by Senator Kelleher. That tries to recognise Traveller culture in our schools. That Bill has gone through Second Stage in the Seanad and it is being progressed.

The Deputy cannot come in again.

Can I take this issue to the Ceann Comhairle's office-----

This issue possibly concerns the Minister.

-----because it was wrong of the Minister to have done what she did?

We have a policy of an open door.

I call on Deputy Kenny to introduce his question.