Words: Ellen Kenny
The Irish Travellers’ Access to Justice (ITAJ) report raises concerns about how gardaí treat minority groups.
A “landmark” study from the University of Limerick found that Travellers’ faith in Ireland’s justice system is “extremely low”.
Researchers at the University of Limerick spoke to one in every 100 Travellers in the Republic of Ireland for the study.
71 per cent of the “general population” agreed with the statement “the gardaí in this area treat everyone fairly regardless of who they are” in a 2019 Garda Public Attitudes Survey. According to the ITAJ survey, 84 per cent of Travellers disagree with that same statement.
While 50 per cent of the Travellers surveyed were victims of criminal offences such as theft and assault in the previous five years, only 20 per cent were actually arrested during that same period.
According to the study, 50 per cent of Travellers have been present in a home that gardaí entered without permission. A search warrant was presented by gardaí in only 11 per cent of these instances.
95 per cent of the general population believe that gardaí would treat you with respect, while 91 per cent of Travellers do not believe that gardaí treat them with any respect.
75 per cent of Travellers also believe that judges do not treat the Travelling community with respect.
Dr Sindy Joyce, Lecturer in Traveller Studies in UL’s Department of Sociology, said: “The results of this research will come as no surprise to members of the Traveller community, whose experiences and perceptions of the criminal justice process are unequivocally linked to both their identity as a historically traditionally nomadic community, and their present day status as a racialised indigenous ethnic group in Irish society.”
The study was funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Irish Research Council under the COALESCE programme.
IHREC Chief Commissioner Sinead Gibney urged that the study be “used as an evidential grounding for reforms to make our criminal justice system accessible by all.”
“It is abundantly clear that the relationship between Travellers and our criminal justice system too often starts from a point of mistrust, developed over decades.”
Harmful stereotypes that frame Travellers as problems by default shatter any illusion that justice is blind. Offering Travellers a voice is paramount to abolishing the injustice they live under.
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