IRISH TRAVELLER activist Eileen Flynn has become the first Traveller to be elected to the Seanad in a historic moment for Ireland.
30-year-old Eileen Flynn, who grew up in a halting site in Ballyfermot, said it was "phenomenal" to have been nominated for the Seanad by new Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The soon-to-be-Senator was speaking on RTÉ's Sundays with Miriam where she described receiving "the most amazing call" telling her she was among the Taoiseach's 11 nominations for the Seanad.
Ms Flynn, who has been an activist for over a decade and who previously made headlines when she and her sister became the first Travellers to receive a third-level education in the area, said her appointment was a step forward in "acknowledging diversity" across Ireland.
Blazing a trail is nothing new to Eileen Flynn - our first Traveller senator. Here she was 12 years ago - herself & her sister Sally - the first Travellers from Labre Park to go to 3rd level. @Love1solidarity pic.twitter.com/BN2qUugxXw
— emma o kelly (@emma_okelly) June 27, 2020
“I got a phone call from Taoiseach Micheál Martin and it was the most amazing call I’ve got in my life," she told presenter Miriam O'Callaghan.
"I wasn’t too sure if I was going to get it or not but to be nominated was just phenomenal.”
She said she would use her time in the Seanad to amplify lesser-heard voices such as refugees and the black community, and said "I'd love to see hate crime legislation in Ireland".
"I’ll be working with black people, migrants, refugees, Travellers. I’d like to work with those people, those who don’t fit into boxes," she said.
1. Congratulations Senator Eileen Flynn on your appointment today to the 26th Seanad from all in the national Traveller Women's Forum. You are an inspiring Traveller woman, activist and community development worker and have been so committed in the overall struggle for real pic.twitter.com/gCiBdiVjU9
— National Traveller Women’s Forum (@NTWFIRL) June 27, 2020
Traveller rights group Pavee Point said it was "historic to see the first Irish Traveller appointed to Seanad Éireann.
"Congrats to Irish Traveller feminist Eileen Flynn. We need more action and implementation in this vein."
Ms Flynn, an Independent, has previously campaigned for equality, including for equal marriage, housing rights and abortion rights, and will continue the fight for equality as a senator.
She told Miriam O'Callahan, "Young people in Ballyfermot wouldn't have the same opportunities as those in Blackrock or Foxrock" and she would like to see this change.
“I hope young Traveller women will look up and say-- life is hard, but if you keep at it and if you believe in a young person, they might go on to be something they never imagined.”
Taking to Twitter following the news of her appointment, Ms Flynn thanked Government leaders Leo Varadkar, Eamon Ryan and Taoiseach Micheál Martin "for following through on their commitment to giving a voice to minority views in the Seanad".
I should have done this earlier but I've been overwhelmed by the good wishes. I want to thank @EamonRyan, @MichealMartinTD and @LeoVaradkar for following through on their commitment to giving a voice to minority views in the Seanad.
— Eileen Ní Fhloinn (@Love1solidarity) June 28, 2020
"All my life there are those who have shown faith in me, helped me believe in myself," she wrote adding "I have worked all my life to break barriers and challenge inequality."
She went on to thank TDs, Councillors and Senators "from across the political divide" who have supported her in the past. "Your endorsement helped make this happen. You helped show me that I as a Traveller woman could be a legitimate candidate".
"Finally, I really want to thank, the many strong women I have worked with over the years, the many strong women who have supported me in my life, the many strong women who helped me with my campaign.
"Together we will continue working for equality."