First dedicated legal service aims to ‘vindicate and realise’ Travellers’ rights

First dedicated legal service aims to 'vindicate and realise' Travellers' rights

Christopher McCann

A first-ever dedicated legal service for the Traveller community has been launched by legal rights group FLAC to help “vindicate and realise” their rights.

The new service was designed in conjunction with a steering group made up of seven Traveller organisations, and funding from The Community Foundation for Ireland allowed FLAC to recruit Christopher McCann as a full-time solicitor for three years.

The solicitor experienced “baptism by fire” as the COVID-19 pandemic struck as the service was getting ready for launch, FLAC CEO Eilis Barry told the Zoom launch event this afternoon.

Mr McCann will work with FLAC’s managing solicitor, Sinead Lucey, in the new dedicated service, which will accept referrals through national and local Traveller organisations.

“It’s well-established that the Traveller community in the State suffers great marginalisation and discrimination,” Mr McCann told the launch event earlier today.

“This marginalisation and discrimination is compounded and exacerbated by our justice system, access to which is increasingly becoming the preserve of the wealthy.”

The “vindication and realisation” of rights “often requires a decision of the court”, he said, highlighting as an example the High Court’s 1991 ruling in University of Limerick v Ryan, which reaffirmed the duty of local authorities to provide halting sites.

The project will have an educational and advocacy role as well, with Mr McCann preparing educational materials for the Traveller groups and advocating with the Legal Aid Board and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to provide representation to Travellers.

Speaking this morning, Ms Barry said: “FLAC are very grateful to the Community Foundation of Ireland for their support for this initiative. The long-term aim of the project is to persuade the State to provide such a service. The Legal Aid Board need to be resourced so it can take on housing and discrimination claims.”

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