Speaking at a special ceremony on the Traveller Internship Programme in Government Buildings today, Minister with responsibility for Equality Issues, Sean Power, T.D., paid tribute to a group of young Travellers who participated in an innovative workplace initiative – Traveller Internship Programme in the Civil Service - and who made a positive impact on their individual working environments.

Minister Power was accompanied by the Taoiseach in presenting certificates to the Traveller participants. The Minister also launched a report on the Traveller Internship Programme in the Civil Service. Under the initiative, Travellers were given a six month placement, working side by side with established civil servants. The evaluation report is entitled "Not Like Usual" reflecting a new experience for young Travellers who were accustomed to Traveller only training schemes. The programme which operated during 2006 and 2007 was a positive action initiative to support better access to employment for the Traveller Community.

Minister Power said "I am delighted to note the very positive feedback to the programme both from the Traveller participants and from their colleagues and line managers. It is clear that this sort of programme is a practical way of breaking down barriers to employment for Travellers and for overcoming stereotypes about the Traveller Community. I think it is also a powerful way of helping public servants develop a better appreciation of the communities which they serve."

Presenting the certificates, the Taoiseach said: "This Programme is a very practical example of support for and co-operation with the Traveller community and an important contribution to ensuring that they too can fully contribute to and benefit from Ireland’s economic success." He continued "Initiatives such as the Pilot Programme can make a significant contribution to overcoming the lack of knowledge and understanding which so often characterises the relationship between our settled and Traveller citizens".

The Taoiseach suggested that both public and private sector organisations could benefit from replicating it or developing their own initiatives. Concluding, he warmly congratulated the interns: "Each and every one of you have done yourselves proud, and have given a fine example to young people in your Community. I wish you all the very best for the future, and hope very much that many more young Travellers will follow in your footsteps".     

Minister Power said: "Promoting Equality has to mean that we develop a greater mutual understanding and appreciation of people from diverse backgrounds. So we must be ready to communicate with each other, and give everyone a fair chance to make the most of their abilities.

Based on the experience of this and similar initiatives, it is clear that there is scope for a more widespread adoption of positive action for the employment of Travellers. The Government along with the social partners have already given a commitment to pursuing greater progress for Travellers. This initiative is evidence that the State sector is following through on that commitment. I look forward to further initiatives which could also include private sector employers." 

24 October 2007

Note to Editors

This Traveller Internship Programme forms part of a range of similar initiatives which are being taken by public service organisations. Other successful programmes have been run by bodies such as the County Councils in South Dublin and Clare. The Civil Service programme was driven by the Department of Finance, working closely with the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform and other Departments, as well as FAS, the Public Appointments Service and Traveller representatives.

Some of the Traveller interns performed a range of clerical duties and others took on general operative work with the OPW. The experience has helped the participants in availing of other opportunities. Some have gone on to other employment in both the public and private sectors or opted to seek further education. The programme has also been highlighted as an example of good practice at the recent "Diversity through Equality" conference in Copenhagen.

The evaluation report was compiled by Dr. Pauline Conroy and Helen O’Leary of Ralaheen Ltd and it makes a number of recommendations towards the development of further initiatives.