Many Irish activists and politicians have achieved international prominence over the years by taking on certain human rights causes in another country. The West Bank and Gaza would spring to mind at the moment. East Timor was another cause celebre back in the late 1990s.
It's not my aim to attack well-intentioned people who take on a cause with a wholly altruistic motivation but I have sometimes wondered: shouldn't we be looking a lot closer to home at one particular minority here in Ireland? I'm referring to the Travellers.
The table below compares certain demographic statistics of Irish Travellers with those of people in parts of the world that feature (or would have featured) on the intinerary of many Irish activists over the years. It should be clear that when it comes to minorities in need of help, we don't need to go haring off half way around the world. The figures for Irish Travellers more often than not compare poorly to those of the supposed victims in far off countries.
To put it more baldly, going by the CIA World Factbook, Irish travellers would be:
- 199th in the world on unemployment
- 185th in the world vis a vis Traveller male life span
- barely above countries such as Libya and equivalent to Albania on infant mortality
- until quite recently, Irish Travellers would have ranked below the West Bank on infant mortality
So, like charity, shouldn't campaigns for human rights begin at home?
3. The history of Irish Travellers' struggle for civil rights and ethnic recognition | Workers Solidarity Movement
4. Life expectancy of Travellers remains low - irishhealth.com
5. 2002 Census Of Population Volume 8 - Irish Traveller Community - CSO - Central Statistics Office
9. Travellers excluded from labour force