STSG - Sligo Traveller Support Group

Travellers in Northern Ireland

Travellers in Northern Ireland and Travellers in the Republic are members of the same ethnic group and are faced with similar life experiences, which include discrimination and social exclusion.

In NI, similar challenges for Travellers in terms of premature mortality have been noted as in ROI. According to ‘Investing for Health’ (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2002), Travellers die about 15 years earlier than the general population in NI. Only 1 in 10 of the Traveller Population is over 40 years of age and 1 in 100 is over 65. Child mortality up to age 10 has been found to be 10 times that of the population as a whole.

According to the All Ireland Traveller Health Study (2010):


Adult Health Services:

The barriers Travellers in NI  identified in relation to using adult health services were; waiting list (46.8%), embarrassment (50.1%) and lack of information (28.6%).

Complete trust in health professional (34.6%) was lower than general population (82.7%).


In April 2011 Fionola Meredith wrote an article entitled ‘The Irish Traveller Community’ (available on the Culture Northern Ireland website). Within this articles she discussed how the indigenous Irish Travelling community is the second largest ethnic minority group in Northern Ireland, estimated at around 1400 people. Long-term unemployment is also another major factor affecting members of the Travelling community in Northern Ireland. Only 11% of the community are in paid employment, while 70% of those who are economically active have had no paid work in the last ten years. Poor levels of educational attainment and high levels of illiteracy are also key issues.

The vast majority of Travellers in Northern Ireland hold no formal qualifications, and 92% have no qualification equivalent to or higher than GCSEs. There are high levels of non-attendance at secondary school and almost nonexistent attendance at tertiary level. Poor living conditions play their part. Travellers are eight times more likely to live in overcrowded conditions than the general population of Northern Ireland. Many still have seriously curtailed access to basic amenities such as running water, electricity and sanitation, including some of those living on serviced sites.

Health concerns compound many of the difficulties the Travelling community encounter. The mortality rate for Traveller children up to the age of ten has been found to be ten times higher than average. Overall, the life expectancy of Travellers is around 20% lower than that of the general population. Only 10% of the Traveller population are over 40 years of age and only 1% are aged over 65.

A high level of prejudice from non-Travellers has a long history in Northern Ireland, contributing to and reinforcing the social, economic, cultural and political exclusion of the community. Hostility towards the Travelling community has continued and developed into the twenty-first century. Recent research has suggested that 40% of people in Northern Ireland do not believe that the Traveller’s nomadic way of life is valid and should be supported by the government. Over half the population do not want Travellers as residents in their local area, and two thirds of people would not willingly accept a Traveller as a work colleague.

Address: STSG, 1A St Annes, Cranmore Road, Sligo
Tel: (071) 9145780
Fax: (071) 9145782

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