Gay pride and forgotten people

I love Dublin. It captured my heart during my twenties and it has remained its captive. I love the Georgian buildings, the tree-lined streets, the Dublin mountains, the accents, the pubs. And of course I love the memories the place holds for me.

The capital city was looking particularly colourful on Saturday morning as I made my way towards Connolly Station to catch the train back to Belfast. Balloons of every colour were fixed around doorways, little stalls offered scarves and flags, faces were painted, hair dyed, and people of every age made their way talking and laughing to the route of the Gay Pride parade.

This open support for and celebration of gay people is light years from what it was. Ireland is now a  far more tolerant place for gay people  – An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is gay and no one thinks twice about it. While things are still not perfect, we can pat ourselves on the back for abandoning the prejudiced mindset of yesteryear.

But we are highly selective in our support of minorities which suffer prejudice. To take one example: when’s the last time you saw a Travellers’ Pride march? 

Throughout Ireland, Traveller men die on average 15 years earlier than the general population.  Traveller women die eleven years earlier than women in general.  There is better news on the infant mortality rate – it’s gone from 18 deaths per 1,000 live births to 14 deaths.  But there’s still a stark difference: among the general population, the infant death rate is less than 4  per thousand live births. Only half of Traveller adults finished primary school. And how many Travellers have you seen graduating from university?

No one marches in support of Travellers, no one in the settled community speaks up for  them, the scandal in Traveller health, education and employment continues. Pubs routinely refuse to serve them and get away with it.

I have never heard a young person express even the mildest interest in support of Travellers; I have frequently heard young people argue passionately for respect of gay people.

I’d like to round off this blog by explaining the reason for this contrast in sympathy and support, but I can’t. I don’t know why.  Do you?  

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