Documentary on Newstalk presents ‘The White Line’, a new documentary that reveals the shocking truth about how Irish Traveller children were treated in Irish schools and the unacknowledged apartheid that existed in the Irish education system for over 5 decades.
'The White Line’ will air on Newstalk on Sunday November 5th at 7am, repeated Saturday November 11th at 9pm and will be available as a podcast, on GoLoud and all major platforms.
"It is widely known that the Irish education system officially segregated Traveller children based on their ethnicity from 1963 onwards. Less well known is that segregation was introduced as part of a systematic attempt by the Irish government to assimilate Irish Travellers. The negative impact, of what was essentially a racist system, on Irish Traveller children has never been publicly acknowledged." - Independent radio Producer Susan Dennehy
This documentary reveals the education system from the perspective of the Traveller children who attended school during the period of segregation.
‘There was a divide between you and the settled child, so there were white lines, like tape, going across, and the settled kids were on one side of the yard and we were on the other side of the yard. You weren’t allowed look at a settled child, and any time you went near that white line you were slapped with a ruler.’ Mags Casey Ryan, interviewee
Through personal testimony we hear how Traveller children were: kept separate from the settled children at all times; put in Traveller-only classrooms where they received little or no teaching; and were physically and mentally punished regularly simply because of who they were
Many of the policies and practices relating to Traveller children were humiliating and degrading. For example, children were regularly showered without their consent or the consent of their parents. Interviewee, Margaret Collins recalls being showered at age 8 or 9 in primary school in Navan. - ‘They brought me down to the shower room, it was a cold, miserable, damp place, and there were other Traveller girls there. I was told to get into the shower, a cold shower. I remember I kept asking them why. I explained to them that I was washed that morning before school and there was no reason for me to be showered, there was no reason for any of the girls to be showered."
All the voices, including that of the narrator, in this documentary belong to members of the Irish Traveller Community. The interviewees come from many parts of the country, from Tipperary, to Galway to Meath and Dublin and for most, this is the first time they have told their story publicly.
Segregation of Traveller children in Irish schools may officially be a thing of the past but the negative impact and the dark legacy of that system is far-reaching. Despite some positive developments, barriers to education still exist for Traveller children and latest data tells us that 93% of Irish Travellers don’t complete secondary school education.
Despite calls for a State apology from The Irish Traveller Movement and other Traveller organisations, no member of the Irish Traveller community has ever received an acknowledgement or an apology from the Irish State for the way they were treated in Irish schools.
‘…the State has a lot to answer for. They were the main instigators who supported and sustained an institutionalised segregated education service for Travellers which has done a huge amount of damage to our people. And to be quite frank about it, I believe that there should be Commission of Enquiry into this – the wrong, the damage that they have inflicted on our people over many, many decades.’ - Martin Collins Co-Director Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre
‘The White Line’ was produced by Independent radio Producer Susan Dennehy. The Narrator was Christine Collins. The Final Mix was by Moynihan Russell Studios.
The programme was funded by Coimisiún na Meán with the Television License Fee.
Photo Credit: 4.4.1980. Dublin, Ireland. Traveller children playing beside their Tigeen accomodation in Avila Park, Finglas, North Dublin. ©Copyright photo by Derek Speirs. (Image use subject to licence - credit photo - Derek Speirs)