Legislation proposed to make teaching of Traveller history and culture mandatory in Irish schools
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Legislation proposed to make teaching of Traveller history and culture mandatory in Irish schools

A SENATOR has proposed legislation that would make the teaching of Traveller history and culture mandatory in Irish schools.

The Traveller Culture & Education Bill, proposed by Independent senator Colette Kelleher, was unveiled today by the Oireachtas Cross-Party Group to Support the Traveller Community.

Senator Kelleher was joined by 10 fellow Oireachtas members at the launch of the group, which "seeks to incorporate traveller culture and history" in primary and post-primary schools across the State.

It comes after last year's formal recognition by the Irish Government of the Traveller ethnic identity.

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Ms Kelleher cited research highlighting "grossly disproportionate outcomes" in life for Travellers compared to the majority population in Ireland.

"Travellers are more than 50 times more likely than non-Travellers to leave school without the Leaving Certificate," she said.

"Only 9% of young people between the ages of 24 and 35 from a Traveller background have completed the Leaving Cert."

Senator Kelleher claimed that "discrimination and bullying" was behind the worrying trend of Traveller children leaving school early without qualifications.

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Also speaking at the launch, Thomas McCann, co-ordinator of the Traveller Counselling Service, slammed the lack of any dedicated Traveller Mental Health Strategy in Ireland.

He cited a 2010 report which described the number of suicides among male Travellers as being at "catastrophic" levels.

"We can no longer ignore Traveller exclusion as the root cause of the disproportionate incidence of mental health in the community," Mr McCann said.

Senator Kelleher added that would be seeking leave to introduce the new Traveller Culture & Education Bill this afternoon and proposed that its second stage be debated next Wednesday.

The one-page measure proposes to incorporate Traveller history and culture into mainstream school curricula.