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From Absorption to Inclusion: The Evolution of Irish State Policy on Travellers

  • Anne Boyle
  • Marie Flynn
  • Joan Hanafin
Chapter

Abstract

Travellers are a distinct cultural group in Ireland and account for less than 1 per cent of the population. They have experienced disadvantage in relation to health, housing, employment and education. In this chapter, a range of Irish State documents are analysed in order to provide an account of the evolution of official views and policies concerning Travellers, with special reference to those concerning Traveller education. The analysis starts with the 1963 Report of the Commission on Itinerancy and traces the evolution of official views and policies concerning Travellers over the following decades. This analysis demonstrates how past policies and practices continue to have an impact on the present. Official policy on Travellers is considered under three interconnecting themes: the way that Traveller culture is perceived; the policy of absorption and assimilation which is evident in early documents; and the move over the years towards policies based more on concepts of equality and partnership. Policy development in relation to the Traveller community did not occur in a vacuum; rather, the various reports analysed in this chapter were influenced by the dominant perspectives of their time. Certain theoretical perspectives recurred, which were also evident in Irish educational policy generally, namely consensualism, essentialism and meritocracy. The documents demonstrate an evolution in official attitudes towards the Traveller community. In the earlier documents, Travellers were seen as a people in deficit—a community of dropouts and deviants—and their culture was not perceived to have any validity or importance. Later documents demonstrated a growing recognition of Traveller culture and a determination to address issues concerning the education of Travellers in a spirit of interculturalism and inclusion. This evolution in attitudes was matched by parallel developments in state policies. Early assimilationist policies and paternalistic approaches were replaced by concepts of partnership and participation. A failure to address the resourcing implications led to ethnic-blind policies, resulting in large reductions in education spending targeted at the Traveller community. This analysis highlights the importance of taking cognisance of the context when attempting to provide cultural capital for minority cultural groups, and it is hoped that it will be instructive for those engaged in similar and related work with cultural minorities internationally.

Keywords

Travellers Schools and schooling Education Ireland 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Boyle
    • 1
  • Marie Flynn
    • 1
  • Joan Hanafin
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of EducationDublin City UniversityDublinIreland
  2. 2.Trinity College DublinDublinIreland

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