THE TRAVELLER COMMUNITY IN DONEGAL
Irish Travellers are a minority ethnic group, indigenous to the island of Ireland. Travellers maintain a shared history, language, traditions and culture. Nomadism is an integral part of Traveller culture. The Equal Status Act 2000 defines Travellers as ‘the community of people who are commonly called Travellers and who are identified (both by themselves and others) as people with a shared history, culture and traditions, including an affinity to a nomadic way of life on the island of Ireland.’ In 2017, following decades of campaigning, Travellers were formally recognised as an ethnic minority by the State with Taoiseach, Enda Kenny describing the Traveller community as an integral part of Irish society with their own distinct identity-“a people within our people”. In Donegal the Traveller population fluctuates between 250 and 350 Traveller families. The most recent profile of the population completed by DTP in August 2020 identified 380 families living in Donegal and North Leitrim. 50 per cent of the Traveller population live in the Letterkenny area. According to the 2016 Census the number of Irish Travellers is 30,987, representing 0.7 per cent of the general population. That number is calculated at 36,224 by the Our Geels, All Ireland Traveller Health Study.
THE ROMA COMMUNITY IN DONEGAL
The European Commission and the Council of Europe tend to use Roma as an umbrella term to refer to a number of different groups (including Roma, Sinti, Kale, Gypsies, Romanichels, Boyash, Ashkali, Egyptians, Yenish, Dom and Lom) and also includes Travellers, without denying the specificities and varieties of lifestyles and situations of each particular group. The Traveller and Roma communities share a history of nomadism and similar lifestyles, and have a shared experience of poverty, social exclusion, and racism. The Roma community also faces distinct challenges, including language and migrant issues. Within the European context, Roma policy and integration strategies are now inclusive of Irish Travellers. While no empirical evidence exists, estimates of the Roma community indicate that there are between 3,000 and 5,000 Roma living in Ireland. It is estimated that there are a minimum of forty families living in Co Donegal. In 2018, DTP received funding from the Department of Justice to fund the Roma Community Development Project. The project is now working with and for the Roma Community in Co Donegal. In 2022 the DTP appointed a Roma Health Coordinator for the North West to include Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim, with support from the HSE’s National Social Inclusion office, with a view to developing a health strategy for an estimated 400 Roma people living in the region.