The issue raised in this research project is how Irish Travellers are portrayed in society and their recognition as an ethnic group. The topic was chosen to gain more knowledge of the Travelling community in Ireland and investigate the relevant issues of social exclusion of communities in modern Irish society using the example of the Irish Travellers. Other social groups investigated include the governmental and public bodies, and the members of the mainstream society. The analysis provided was based upon the literature evidence and proofs related to the lifestyle of Irish travellers, their culture, traditions, lifestyle, and the issues that are encountered by the Travellers because of their social exclusion and separation from the mainstream society. The lack of recognition on a social level is supported by the poor governmental protection as well (Barth, 1970).
There are many sources found on Irish Travellers, including published books, journals and articles as well as media documentaries and political shows televised on both British and Irish television giving an insight into the life of Irish Travellers living in the UK and Ireland. The most reliable book and article resources applied in this research paper include the Journal of Romani Studies (Liverpool University Press, 2009), Hayes’s ‘Irish Travellers’ (2006), Dillon’s ‘The Outsiders’ (2006) and others. The research analysed the information and data provided by independent authors, stationary office reports, national Irish and UK journals, academic and university publishing, Irish public organisations and initiatives, jurisprudence literature, and handbooks written by foreign sociologists. The design of the research is both between groups describing the relationship of Irish Travellers and the remaining society, and within the group depicting the inner social life and set of values represented by the nomadic lifestyles of the Irish Travellers. Unfortunately, there is not enough statistical direct information related to this issue and available for free access, and this is another supporting evidence for the relevance of the issue of social exclusion of social minorities in Ireland. However, article, academic and self-impression sources that are based on transparent and reliable figures are involved in this research. The literature and TV programs raise the issue of the discrimination against the Travelling Community but also look into their culture and way of life.
The Irish Traveller literature
The research procedures started with the search for the Irish Traveller literature. The purpose was to combine all independent sources and create an information base that is reliable and objective to evaluate the level of ethnical and cultural identity, social ethnicity exclusion and the problems that arise due to these two phenomena. The synthesis and analysis of the literature found revealed many interesting facts that related both to the inner social life of nomadic Irish Travellers and their relationship with the remaining members of the Irish society. Some conclusions and It is very important to pay enough tribute to this social and cultural group because it is another reflection for the Irish society in general. The problems that are faced by people with a nomadic style of life in Ireland prove to be real dramatic. Irish Travellers are simply different in their mind-set and culture but for them this means being isolated and being restricted in one’s basic rights too. It is very difficult to survive all the daily struggles when there is no understanding on the behalf of other society members. This approach stimulates mistrust, anger, aggression, and therefore, higher crime level, worse health care quality rates, mass poverty, unemployment and other negative issues that affect the entire Irish society in general. This problem cannot be called specifically Irish – it is, in fact, universal. The only specificity here is the example of Irish Travellers used but such misunderstanding arises everywhere in the world because every country holds minority groups (Levinson, 1998). These problems encouraged the researcher to get a deeper insight on the issue of social minority and ethnic group recognition using the example of the Irish Travellers as an ethnic group in Ireland.
2.2 Methods Used
Primary methods include questionnaires and interviews which were not successful in this research project. The initial plan of the researcher was to carry out both interviews and questionnaires to seek more information about Irish Travellers and to see the view of the settled community in Ireland towards the Travelling Community. I also planned to have interviews to both Irish Travellers and non- Irish Travellers to get an insight into their culture and how they would feel to be classified as an ethnic group in Ireland. The interviews were not forthcoming and the questionnaires were unsuccessful. It was not easy to access original Irish Travellers because they represent a social minority and are difficult to find and talk to easily because of their social exclusion and high level of mistrust shown to the members of the mainstream society. The questionnaires used to derive any information about the view of the settled community upon the issue were unsuccessful. The mainstream society members found it unserious or even threatening to answer to the questions related to the Irish Travellers. Many participants of the questionnaire procedure found it uninteresting and not worth any attention as they had prejudices towards the Irish Travellers. This perception was somewhat useless for the research itself as it didn’t provide any essential information. Nevertheless, it reflected the society’s perception of this issue.
Secondary methods include sources which already exists including previous research reports, newspaper, magazine and journal content, and government and NGO statistics. Secondary data analysis saves time that would otherwise be spent collecting data and, particularly in the case of quantitative data, provides larger and higher-quality databases that would be unfeasible for any individual researcher to collect on their own. In addition, analysts of social and economic change consider secondary data essential, since it is impossible to conduct a new survey that can adequately capture past change and/or developments. It is also one of the most common ways of collecting data and is featured by the following advantages: accessibility, lower costs of acquisition, clarifying role for the research topic, a variety of answers to the main question of the research, and demonstrating the difficulties of conducting the primary research (Blogpost.com, 2008). Secondary methods are used in this research project, involving the summary, collation and synthesis of existing research rather than primary where data is collected. Literature was a major part of this project for the issue in which I set out to explore. The recognition of Irish Travellers as an ethnic group in Ireland is a major societal concern in today’s society. The purpose of the study was to add to discipline’s understanding of the issue.
The challenges encountered in this research are primarily connected with the cut of information for the primary resources. It means that the researcher had to rely on the results other sociologists provided in their secondary resource assessments. The researcher had to analyse the information acquired and make sure it is credible enough to fit into the topic. Moreover, objectivity was the main criterion in selecting the best sources because the topic frequently involved stereotypes, emotional appeal and prejudices. Some of them appeared in media and literature as well. It was challenging enough to put away all the subjective literature pieces to make sure the information and analysis provided are transparent and trustworthy. In many cases, the data and figures presented in the Irish Traveller studies did not exactly fir into the framework of the chosen topic. The researcher found it hard to select only complete information supported by the evidence, facts and figures from real life. Some of the studies found sounded really great in the beginning but only a piece of their work was accessible for free, and for a full version the author would have had to pay heavy fees.
It was important to stay on the present-time pattern without switching to the history of the Irish Travellers and their cultural heritage of the past. Again, the author had to put a time restriction on the choice of the books and articles. Sometimes the author had to encounter technical difficulties downloading the website of Pavee Point which is an official support centre for Irish Travellers (2012). In spite of everything, the advantages of the secondary methods outweighed the disadvantages, and the author developed a credible paper that had some appropriate challenge management.
According to Pavee Point there is a dearth of information on Travellers’ lives and experiences. ‘As a result the discrimination and exclusion that Travellers experience is often invisible to policy and decision makers. This makes it difficult to develop policies to combat discrimination. Adequate data is necessary for proper planning of services.’ (Pavee Point Official Website, 2012). Pavee Point has been working with the Central Statistics Office to help develop an ethnicity question for Census 2006 where people can self-identify in terms of ethnic group.
It is also important that any information on ethnic group is collected within an equality framework. This means that the benefits, in terms of equality, are understood – not only by those collecting the data but also by those providing the data.
To conclude there have been debates whether Irish travellers have been forced to practice their nomadic lifestyle. This is mainly because the mainstream society has denied the community social recognition, education, housing healthcare and other social services for many years (OPEN, 2010). However, today Irish travellers are recognised as a minority group in the society. It should be noted that all individuals are equal. On this basis, there should be no discrimination against any group irrespective of how minor it is. Every person has equal rights irrespective of their origin. Divisions on the basis of ethnicity and traditional practices ought to be abolished. The world has advanced far more beyond these differences (Ó Riain, 2000).
The example of the Irish Travellers social exclusion from the mainstream Irish society shows that even a seemingly civilised and developed country has issues connected with the misperceptions of nomads, poor, gypsies and other special social groups. This is a worldwide problem that is relevant for many other supressed social groups in different countries (Levinson, 1998). Every single country has its own misunderstood ‘aliens’ or ‘gypsies’. And in contemporary society people have to understand the cultural and lifestyle differences, perceive them as something that cannot be changed or argued, and empower those social minorities with the same real basic human rights available for any regular citizen. There is no way to claim a society democratic and providing equal opportunities if there is a small group of individuals that do not enjoy these benefits. The negative attitude towards nomadic lifestyle has been cultivated in people throughout the world for centuries creating a kind of vicious circle where the undesired citizens became nomads because they found no understanding in their usual settled environments, and the mainstream society treated them in a negative way because of their unsettled and always-on-the-move lifestyle. Perhaps, it was connected with the superstitions and prejudices – people of all ages have always been afraid of mystery and magic, and the risk of being cheated on probably made them very angry too (Cole, 2011). However, now it is the twenty-first century – an epoch of progress and growth of humanistic ideas. It is absolutely inappropriate to support the tendency of mistrust and even hate for the Travellers any more. The society cannot anticipate that the Irish Travellers become settled, get employed, receive proper health care if they are constantly excluded and crossed out from the normal social life.
The Travellers in Ireland have all characteristics typical for a separate culture. In spite of their splitting ethnic origins, they speak the same language and have identical set of values. They represent a sufficient part of the Irish population considering that it is not a densely populated state. In the view of the author, the issue of recognising the Irish travellers has already become critical. One of the brightest examples is the evident lack of justice that was demonstrated by the Irish law towards two families of Irish Travellers. It proves that the prejudices and stereotypes won’t let the Travellers turn for help from the government as well. This is a bottom-up situation when deep-rooted ideas cultivated in the society influenced the clear judgment of the law representatives (Whincup, 2006). In spite of the Travellers’ presence in Ireland since the fifth century, their rights are being violated even now, in the age of equality, legacy and democracy.
Perceiving the Irish Travellers as a separate and ethnically independent social group with its own unique culture, traditions and language would contribute to the resolution of the situation a lot. It would mean that the society accepts the independency and the right to exist of this ethnical group. This has to be supported by the range of government legislative acts as there is nothing more influential that the law. The essential support can be provided by socially active organisations such as Pavee Point Traveller’s Centre. Changing the mind-set of an average Irishman is crucial for recognising the human rights of nomadic people.
Looking deeper into the consequences of the Irish Traveller social exclusion, the researcher finds out that it is the society’s attitude and growing level of mistrust that pushes many Travellers to get involved in cheating and crimes. Many Irish are sure that the Travellers are close to dirty tramps but the reason behind their poverty, no education and lack of health care is the social isolation. If the Irish society will be ready to accept the unsettled Irish Travellers, the latter will gladly get merged with the mainstream society (Royalla, 2010). It has been several centuries since this social isolation has started, so why not put an end to it at last? In fact, there are numerous benefits for both parts that can be derived from the merger of the mainstream society and the Irish Travellers (Watt & McGaughey, 2006). The society will get highly qualified dancers, show makers, artists, clowns, folk musicians, magicians, fortune tellers and mystery entertainers. The program of Irish Traveller employment will find so many unrevealed talents that can be work in circuses or fairs. Those unsettled Travellers who are interested in other fields may become great supplements for those spheres where Ireland lacks people. At the same time, there will be less poverty and epidemic infections due to the enhanced level of health care in poor areas and the temporary residences of the Irish Travellers (McCarthy, 1972). The culture of Ireland will be enriched with so many new colours that will come along with the songs and arts presented by the Irish Travellers. And the new benefits for the latter ones are obvious: better education, better social recognition and better health care level will be a treasure to keep.