As we approach the five-year anniversary of the devastating Carrickmines fire tomorrow, which claimed ten lives at a Dublin halting site in 2015, I have called for the Traveller National Health Action Plan to be published as a matter of urgency to tackle the stark rates of suicide in the Traveller community.
Last year alone, at least three times more Travellers died by suicide than did in the Carrickmines fire. Suicide among Traveller men occurs at a rate seven times as high as among the general population, the rate among Traveller women is six times as high. The Irish Traveller Movement estimated 30 deaths by suicide to the end of August 2019.
As a community, Travellers have suffered long-standing racism, hate speech, prejudice and discrimination, all of which have culminated in rising cases of suicide and mental health difficulties. The National Traveller Health Action Plan has the potential to make a significant positive impact on Traveller health in Ireland, particularly mental health. It was expected to be finalised by the end of 2019 but there is still no sign of it. If we are serious about having better outcomes, the plan needs to be published as a matter of urgency. Goodwill is not enough. We need action.