I recently asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht about her Department’s approach to the inclusion of people from the Traveller community in funding for the arts. When I previously tabled a question in this respect, the Minister refused to answer, and it was referred to the Department of Justice and Equality.
Yet after taking the matter to the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil and re-submitting the question about funding for artists from the Traveller community, the Minister finally responded. She proceeded to quote extensively from documents and publications by her Department concerning funding for artists from the Traveller community. I found this highly unusual considering she had previously refused to answer my question. I believed the Minister should apologise to the Traveller community for refusing to take pretty much the same question on 19 September and having it inappropriately transferred to the Department of Justice and Equality.
In response, the Minister expressed that she had nothing to apologise for, and thus, I found her statement to be seriously deficient, as well as an insult to artists from the Traveller community.
From what the Minister outlined in response to my questioning, I noted that she is now going to establish a committee on Traveller culture in the National Museum. But what Travellers really want to see, is a sub-committee established within her Department to address issues affecting musicians, performers, playwrights and other artists from the Traveller community.
I want to know the reason the Minister refuses to engage with Travellers? When other artists the Department deals with raise issues, are they also referred to the Department of Justice and Equality?
The Minister herself has made remarks on previous occasions about Traveller housing and other issues related to Travellers. As the Minister with responsibility for culture, why will she not directly answer questions on Travellers? When asked the first time, why did she reject my question? Why will she not set up an interdepartmental committee in her Department to bring together musicians, actors and writers, as well as other Travellers who are artists?
It is imperative that the Traveller community gets these well overdue answers.