- 16 Dec 21
Senator Eileen Flynn shares her thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
There are two different forms of racism – direct and indirect. And sometimes, the indirect racism hurts more. Even today, as a 32-year-old woman who’s a member of the Oireachtas, I feel the indirect discrimination. It’s still difficult to even book a table in a restaurant.
One of my first memories as a child is going into the local shops in Ballyfermot with my mother, and being followed around. As a four-year-old child, you feel like there’s something wrong with you. If you’re brought up in that kind of situation, it can lead to you being in denial about who you are, and not wanting to belong to that community.
When I was 25, I was like, ‘I need to do something about this’. That led me to getting involved in activism. It was then that I really accepted myself as a Traveller woman. People talk about the ‘good Travellers’ and the ‘bad Travellers’ – and they talk about the ‘settled’ Travellers and the Travellers. But there’s no such thing as a settled Traveller. What society is trying to do is divide our community.
Look at Traveller mental health. Look at Traveller accommodation. It’s ill-treatment that Travellers have been going through in Ireland for decades and decades. It wasn’t acceptable then, and it’s not acceptable today. We need hate crime legislation, to educate people. I do accept that people can change, and I don’t think we should attack people. Hate crime legislation is not about locking up a young working-class person who acts out, or anything of the sort. It’s about educating all of us. And that’s something that we need to do.
Read Part 2 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism in the current issue of Hot Press:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.