Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle, Flynn, welcome Government support for bill on teaching Traveller history and culture in schools

Pringle, Flynn, welcome Government support for bill on teaching Traveller history and culture in schools

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, and independent Senator Eileen Flynn have welcomed Government support for the important and long-awaited bill that would see Traveller history and culture taught in primary and secondary schools as part of the curriculum.

As they welcomed the support, they also said work will be needed at committee stage to ensure the bill does what it is intended to do.

Deputy Pringle said the bill “is very important in recognising the significant role that Traveller culture has played in our society”.

He credited Senator Flynn, activist Oein DeBhairduin, the Irish Traveller Movement, the Traveller community and its networks and organisations, and former Senator Colette Kelleher, for their work in the process that brought the bill into being.

Senator Flynn said: “This is a very important step in the right direction. This bill will need work in committee stage and as someone who sits on the Committee on Education, I will make sure this bill doesn’t get lost – there’s momentum toward meaningful change in education in relation to Traveller history and culture.”

Deputy Pringle brought the Traveller History and Culture in Education Bill 2018 to the Dáil Thursday evening, at the request of Senator Flynn. The bill had already come through the Seanad, where it was brought by former Senator Kelleher of the Civil Engagement Group and co-signed by CEG members.

The deputy said that as well as broadening the cultural and historical education of Irish pupils, “enacting this much-needed legislation would help to counter the discriminatory attitudes and negative myths regarding Travellers that exist among members of the wider community.”

Senator Flynn said: “This bill can and must lead to meaningful representation for Travellers in Irish education, and not a tokenistic gesture. It’s about valuing children – all the children – in our education system.

“When a Traveller child will feel valued in our education system, that will encourage them to stay in education because they will feel part of the education system for the first time in history,” Senator Flynn said.

Deputy Pringle and Senator Flynn said the bill takes an important step that should have been taken long ago. Including Traveller culture and history in school curricula honours commitments made in policy guidelines issued by the Department of Education and Skills in 2005, and the Department of Justice and Equality in 2017.

The 2018 curriculum audit, as undertaken by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, highlighted the sustained gaps within the curriculum inclusion. Traveller representative groups sat on the NCCA advisory group during the 2020-2021 process and Dr Hannah McGinley, education officer with NCCA, has been working with national Traveller organisations and the Traveller community.

Norma Foley, Minister for Education, told the Dáil on Thursday evening that the Government supports the bill.

Deputy Pringle and Senator Flynn said there is much work to do at committee stage, saying the bill in its current format does not guarantee inclusions intended will happen in practice, and that needs to change.

Deputy Pringle said: “So passing this legislation will not be the panacea, but with the signal that it will send out from the Oireachtas it could very well be the start, if the Government and Department act on it and make sure it is delivered.”

Senator Flynn’s colleagues in the CEG also welcomed the bill.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said: “Travellers in our education system have historically experienced both prejudice and invisibility. This bill is about ensuring they are recognised and supported in the fullness of their identity, while deepening every child’s understanding of the diversity within Ireland’s history and culture.”

Senator Lynn Ruane said: “The speedy passage of this bill through the Dáil at all stages will truly show the Government’s commitment to creating real and meaningful efforts in addressing the inequality the Traveller community faces. Traveller culture and history is Irish culture and history. With this in mind, it should be taught and celebrated, always.”

Senator Frances Black said: “This bill will be transformative to both Traveller children and young adults who rarely find their history reflected in the education system, but also those of the wider community who have not had the opportunity to learn about the diversity and wider context of Irish history and culture.”