President McAleese tells Pavee Point: “you have made Ireland a better place”

The President’s visit, one of the last engagements of her two-term presidency, was an opportunity to reflect on the work of Mrs McAleese and the impact it has had on the Traveller community, Ireland’s largest indigenous ethnic minority.

During the morning, the President visited a tree she planted in 2000, in memory of her friend and the founder of Pavee Point, John O’Connell.

The President was met by Anastasia Crickley, chairperson of the organisation, along with Ms Ronnie Fay and Mr Martin Collins, co-directors of the organisation’s work, and was addressed by Mr Martin Collins.

Mr Collins introduced the President, recognising her efforts in the recognition of Travellers, but also some of the remaining challenges for the community.  Among other remarks, he said:

“In essence, what you have sought to do over the last fourteen years is to bring people from the margins into the centre of the society. You have opened the doors of Áras an Uachtaráin to Travellers and Roma.  You have made us very proud.”  He said the work of President McAleese’s two terms had set an example to the whole of Irish society and to Travellers themselves to be more inclusive of human difference.

The President said Pavee Point’s refusal to settle for anything less than full equality and inclusion had ‘made Ireland a better place’ thanked Pavee Point for its ‘investment and energy in the creation of partnerships to work to promote inclusion’.  She continued:

‘So many of our marginalised communities have always had to tug on the elbow of others and ask to be remembered’ She said that nobody should have to live in ‘festering racism’ and intolerance, and said that Pavee Point and other Traveller organisations were shortening the road to full equality.  She conceded that Travellers are not there yet, but said:

“We aren’t there yet, but we’re a lot closer today than we were the day before Pavee Point was founded’.

The President was presented with a ‘Traveller Peace Pin’ in silver, which promotes a culture of peace and dialogue within the Traveller community.