Traveller and Roma Policy in Ireland
Conflict and Mediation
The presence of, or potential for, conflict means that there is a need for services such as policing, health-care, council repairs to houses, as well as likely services in the area of Courts, Prisons and Probation Services. Therefore, the Traveller and Roma Unit works to achieve the long-term objective of eliminating feuding and to that end supports mediation efforts and conflict resolution initiatives. The Department’s assessment of whether to appoint a mediator in individual cases has regard to the public good balanced with costs associated with the provision of such services. However, the MTCMI initiative (described below) has proven to be very successful in dealing with Traveller conflict.
This is a pilot project under the aegis of four midlands Traveller Interagency Groups (TIGs) which put in place mediators, on a full-time basis, to deal with recurring violent incidents involving extended Traveller families. It has mostly operated in the Midlands counties, including Offaly, Laois, Longford and Westmeath, but they have also dealt with cases in Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Limerick, Wicklow and Galway. The service which commenced in 2009 is part-funded by the Department of Justice and Equality.
The MTCMI Steering Group comprises a cross-section of personnel from the four interagency groups, local Travellers and the Gardaí. The strategy is based on a co-ordinated approach to tackling the underlying drivers of conflict and recognizes that neither Travellers themselves nor those working with them have the capacity/skills to manage and resolve the underlying conflict. It also recognizes that the level of conflict within the Traveller community has worsened in recent years and that the nature of conflicts has become more serious. The strategy is also based on a view that (i) an effective response to conflict requires a joined up approach that brings a mediation/conflict resolution approach to bear in tandem with a clear policing and enforcement strategy and (ii) addresses a range of issues which contribute to and exacerbate conflict between Travellers and between Travellers and the Settled Community.
Council of Europe ROMED Programme
The Report of the Inquiry conducted by Ms Emily Logan, under Section 42 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, into the circumstances surrounding the removal of 2 Roma children from their families, which was published in July 2014, identified a range of steps that need to be taken, including detailed issues that need to be addressed within An Garda Síochána and other agencies, as well as wider issues that relate to how public services generally engage with members of the Roma community. All of the recommendations contained in the Logan Report were accepted unequivocally.
Paragraph 4.2.5 of Ms Logan's Report referred to a Council of Europe programme of Roma mediators, which is active in many countries but not in Ireland. The Report recommended that the Irish Government should commit the requisite resources and actively engage with the Council of Europe on this programme, and outlined that the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on Roma issues stood ready to assist Ireland with the development of a mediation programme in Ireland. In compliance with this recommendation, the Department of Justice and Equality is engaging with the Council of Europe regarding bringing the programme to Ireland.
The general aim of the ROMED programmeis to improve the quality and effectiveness of the work of school/health/employment mediators, with a view to supporting better communication and cooperation between Roma and public institutions (school / health-care providers / employment offices). Its objectives are to:
· promote real and effective intercultural mediation;
· ensure the integration of a rights-based approach;
· support the work of mediators by providing tools for planning and implementation of their activities which encourage democratic participation while generating empowerment of Roma communities and increased accountability of public institutions.
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