After generations of ignoring Travellers altogether, government policies in relation to Travellers began to be formulated in the early 1960’s modelled on developments in the Netherlands. These policies were explicitly assimilationist with ‘itinerancy’ seen as the key problem to be solved. Subsequent policy focused more on integration with a gradual shift from a ‘culture of poverty’ approach to a human-rights approach. More recently as a result of lobbying by Travellers and Traveller support groups there has been a greater recognition of Traveller cultural identity and Travellers have been mentioned explicitly in protective legislation. However there was strong resistance to an attempt by the government to introduce Equal Status legislation in 1997 which would address explicitly the discrimination against Travellers. This remains an ongoing area of debate and campaigns.
There has been a strong denial of the existence of racism towards Travellers among many within Ireland although it is accepted that they experience discrimination. Evidence for the existence of anti-Traveller racism is gathered from political and media discourse which is shown to involve a racialisation process inferring the inferiority of Travellers (McVeigh, 1996, O’Connell, 1997).
Apart from the negative stereotypes and vilification of Travellers in such discourse, Travellers experience discrimination in a variety of ways. Individuals, when recognised as Travellers, are sometimes arbitrarily refused entry or access to public places or services. Many policies, procedures, and practices reflect either a lack of acceptance or a total denial of Traveller identity. Negative stereotypes and scapegoating of Travellers are commonplace.
There is also a clear gender dimension to the Traveller experience of racism. Many Traveller women are more easily identifiable than Traveller men, and are therefore more likely to experience discrimination. Sometimes evictions are carried out when Traveller men are absent, leaving women to deal with the brunt of male verbal and physical abuse. But above all Traveller women, as mothers, homemakers and carers, have to make do with low incomes, in poor living circumstances, without basic facilities such as running water and sanitation.
Travellers with a disability have usually been cared for in institutions, where assimilation was the norm and where little or no consideration was given to cultural identity.
The most public and controversial area where anti-Traveller discrimination arises is in relation to the provision of accommodation. Local authorities and resident associations are accused by Travellers and Traveller organisations of turning the accommodation issue into a political football. Elected local councillors are keenly aware that their political survival depends on the support of local residents who easily outnumber Travellers. Resident associations make their opposition to Travellers living in ‘their’ areas very clear. Local authorities in turn have undertaken a ‘boulder policy’ that involves placing large rocks along the roadsides where Travellers camped or might camp illegally. This is combined with evictions of Travellers from unofficial camping sites. Gardaí and/or private security firms are sometimes involved in the carrying out of these evictions.
The deplorable living circumstances of many Travellers, because of the lack of suitable accommodation, is a crucial factor in the poor health of Travellers. The life expectancy of Travellers is far below the national average, with Traveller men and Traveller women living on average ten years and twelve years less than their sedentary peers, respectively. Traveller infant mortality is more than twice that of the majority population. These realities, combined with a failure to address them comprehensively, are seen by politicised Travellers and Traveller organisations as other manifestations of institutional racism.
There is a large population of Roma/Sinti/Zinari in Italy, many of whom have been living there for generations while others are immigrants from the former Yugoslavia. An estimated 40,000 Roma are said to live on the outskirts of the main cities (Rome, Florence, Turin, Bologna, Milan, Venice, Genoa, Naples). Many of these Roma immigrants live in deplorable circumstances without basic facilities and services, faced with raids and evictions (see Roma Rights, Autumn 1997). Emergency facilities are needed to cater for basic needs along with a comprehensive package of positive action and capacity-building measures. Italy has been an attractive destination for immigrants from many