Irish government needs to do more to help Traveller families says Pope
Pope Francis has called on the Irish government to do more to support the Travelling community and help put an end to centuries-old prejudices.
The message came as the Pope held a special ceremony at the Vatican in in which he blessed the Carrickmines fire victims.
Ten people from the Travelling community died in the tragedy, including five children, when a fire broke out in a council-owned halting site in South Dublin.
The Pope said that Travellers and other nomadic groups need to be treated with the same consideration as any other members of society.
He said: “We no longer want to see family tragedies where children die of cold or in fires.
“The time has come to uproot centuries-old prejudices, preconceptions and reciprocal diffidence that often are at the base of discrimination, racism and xenophobia.”
The Pope was speaking in front of 7,000 pilgrims from Roma, Sinti and several other Travelling communities. There were around 300 Irish Travellers present at the ceremony including 10-year-old Bill Connors and his seven-year-old cousin Dan.
The boys are relatives of five of the victims of the tragedy. Both were personally greeted and blessed by Pope Francis at the ceremony.
Bill’s mother Margaret O’Leary Connors said: “He was quite excited. He thinks he’s a bit of a celebrity now. He was blessed by the Pope and then he got a selfie.
“Afterwards people started coming up to him and he was given things to hold in his hands.”
The event marked the 50th anniversary of the first ever time a Pope visited a Travellers camp.
Also present was Ronnie Fay, who is the Pavee Point Travellers Centre chief. She said that the people who attended the two day pilgrimage were “very conscious about the bereaved families”.
She added that the relatives of the victims appreciated the Pope’s message and hopes that the government will take his words on board.
She told RTE Radio One: “We hope the Irish Government listens to the Pope’s words. Travellers need to be accepted and included and not have to experience discrimination and racism in Ireland today.”