Roma in Ireland
The estimated 5,000 members of Ireland’s Roma community face numerous social and economic barriers that prevent them from participating fully in our society.
Many find it difficult to gain employment, while others face discrimination when trying to access housing and services such as social welfare, education, and healthcare.
Nasc has recently launched a new project entitled ‘Making Roma Rights Real’ which aims to:
- Provide a specific free-to-access Roma Information and Advice Service operated by a dedicated Roma Rights Officer
- Work directly with community leaders to establish a grassroots movement to challenge discrimination on a local and national level
- Build and support the capacity of the community through leadership and communications training
The project is supported by Open Society Initiative for Europe.
Over the years: Our work with Roma in Cork
In 2011, Nasc was invited to participate in a Roma Research Project spearheaded by the Cork City Partnership. Our role was to provide information to the steering group regarding the legal rights of Roma residents of Cork, including information regarding access to work permits, social protection, healthcare, etc. The need to provide a specific information and advocacy service for Roma people directly emerged from the specific and multiple needs of this vulnerable group.
The efficacy of our work was demonstrated in February 2012 when the state reversed its policy on access to employment in the state for Romanian and Bulgarian national parents of Irish children. Read about the legal challenge which led to this change in policy here.
By the end of 2012, our legal information and advocacy service had assisted 33 Roma people, all of whom were nationals of Romania in the area of labour market access and social protection. A report on the structural discrimination the Roma community experiences in Cork was launched in May 2013. The report, titled In from the Margins – Roma in Ireland was based on two years of clinic work as well as focus groups and interviews with members of the Roma community.
In 2013 Nasc also launched a documentary film titled Roma – From Huedin to Here directed by Brian Cronin and produced by Roma rights activist Greucean Adam and Nasc Roma Rights Officer Claire Larkin. More information about the film and how to get a DVD is available here.
In 2014, Nasc collaborated with the Equality Authority and Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre to produce a photographic exhibition to challenge stereotypes of Roma in Ireland. Roma – One People, Many Lives launched in Dublin City Hall in February 2014 and in Cork City Library in April 2014.
We continue to assist Roma people in Cork, and we use the issues that present in the Roma clinics to assess the barriers to social and economic participation that repeatedly arise for our Roma service-users so that we can work with policy makers in Ireland in order to address the systemic issues facing Roma people who have made their homes in Ireland.
Within EU institutions, the term ‘Roma’ is used as an umbrella term to include groups of people who share similar cultural characteristics including Roma, Sinti, Travellers, Ashkali, Manush, Jenische, Kalderesh and Kale. While the ‘Roma’ represent Europe’s largest minority group, members of this group do not represent a homogeneous community and the communities associated with this term (such as Irish Travellers) do not always identify themselves as ‘Roma’.
With the adoption of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, the European Commission called on the EU Member States to develop national Roma integration strategies focusing on the development of targeted integration goals in relation to four key areas: education, health, employment and access to decent housing and other essential services (eg. water and electricity).
Ireland’s first National Traveller and Roma Integration Strategy was submitted to the European Commission in January 2012; however the strategy was prepared with little or no consultation with Roma people or Roma advocacy groups in Ireland. Nasc’s communication on the development first Integration Strategy is available here.
Nasc are concerned that Ireland has not, in practice, initiated any actions to encourage the integration of Roma people who live in Ireland, or indeed to combat discrimination against Roma people in Ireland. We strongly advocate that Ireland should develop explicit targets in close adherence to the Ten Common Basic Principles on Roma Inclusion and in dialogue with Roma and pro-Roma civil society.
In 2015, the National Traveller and Roma Integration Strategy Steering Committee announced they are in the process of developing a revised Strategy and sought preliminary submissions from Stakeholders. Nasc’s submission can be viewed here.