Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
167. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the mechanism which will be put in place to pursue anti-racism strategies in relation to Travellers in view of the ending of the national action plan against racism and the disbandment of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism and the fact that the Minister of State with responsibility for integration does not have Travellers included in his remit for inclusion strategies. [45422/08]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern): Members of the Traveller community come within the scope of the Equality Acts that accord them special protection against discrimination. These Acts charge the Equality Authority with working towards the elimination of discrimination on the grounds, inter alia, of membership of the Traveller community. The provisions of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, under which criminal offences have been created, also protect Travellers. The National Traveller Monitoring and Advisory Committee, which comprises representatives of the Traveller community as well as State bodies, is charged under Towards 2016 with giving “concentrated attention” to achieving progress on Traveller issues. The Committee has a specific remit to advise me on policy in relation to the Traveller community which can include issues in relation to racism.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern): The High Level Group on Traveller Issues is a working group under the Senior Officials’ Group on Social Inclusion which, in turn, reports to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion, Children and Integration, chaired by the Taoiseach. The High Level Group, as established in 2003, provided a forum for senior policy makers and service providers to discuss barriers to service delivery and explore possibilities of approaching service delivery in a more integrated way. In this regard, the Group was considered as an extension of the Strategic Management Initiative process, an attempt to join up service delivery and to ensure that intended service outcomes for Travellers under the various sectoral strategies were achieved. The Report of the High Level Group was published in March 2006 following approval by the Government.
The High Level Group is now involved in implementing, for example, one of its key recommendations, namely, development of an integrated approach to service delivery at local level using the structures of the City and County Development Boards. Traveller Interagency Groups have since been established in each CDB area and the High Level Group Report specifies meaningful consultation with local Travellers as an essential element in developing the integrated approach.
While Travellers are not included in membership of the High Level Group they continue to be included in a number of national consultative fora and are closely involved in a range of discussions on policy development. I would draw the Deputy’s attention in particular to the National Traveller Monitoring and Advisory Committee (NTMAC), which was established following a commitment from all of the social partners, contained in Towards 2016, to give “concentrated attention” to achieving progress on Traveller issues. The NTMAC includes a greater representation from the Traveller Community than it’s predecessor, the Traveller Monitoring Committee, which reported on the implementation of the 1995 Task Force Report. Prominent Traveller individuals from different parts of the country are included in the NTMAC. The committee has a specific remit to advise on policy in relation to the Traveller Community and I look forward to it’s first report, which is due in 2009.
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