Traveller parents ensuring their child will suffer discrimination

Judge Carol Anne Coolican

TRAVELLER parents who didn’t send their child to school for a year are ensuring that their child will suffer continued discrimination in society, a Limerick judge said.

Judge Carol Ann Coolican made the statement in Newcastle West District Court after hearing how Kathleen and Thomas Sheridan of Lower Main Street, Rathkeale, had not abided by a sworn declaration which Kathleen Sheridan gave to the court in November 2021 that their daughter would be sent to school every day.

Gerry O’Donovan of Child and Family Agency Tusla told Judge Coolican that the girl moved to England with her family, where is was claimed, she was being tutored.

“We received no information about qualifications of this person to tutor her. It’s unfortunate to say that the child was taken out of this jurisdiction to avoid having to comply with the education regulations,” he said.

Judge Coolican asked the couple’s solicitor “why should I not find your clients in contempt of court for failing to honour the undertaking they gave?”

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The solicitor told the court that the child is now back in Limerick and attending school.  “At the time of the court undertaking, the family intended to stay in Limerick. That plan changed,” he said.

The Judge was handed a letter outlining how Traveller families often encounter difficulties in keeping children in school because of their nomadic lifestyle, something which is a part of the Traveller culture.

Mr O’Donovan told the Judge that the penalties open to her against each parent include a jail sentence or a fine but he pointed out that there are other children in the family who need to be cared for.

The Judge said that as it stands the child “has practically missed a whole school year.”

“I often hear from Travellers that they are marginalised and discriminated against, well, they (the parents) are ensuring their child is further discriminated against by not sending her to school. They have failed their child,” the Judge said.

Judge Coolican fined both parents €500 each.