Offaly Traveller Movement (OTM) evolved from a grassroots mobilisation advocating for the needs of the Traveller community in the area of Tullamore, which started back in 1991. In 1995 the organisation was registered with the Companies Registration Office (when it was previously known as Tullamore Traveller Movement Ltd). It was established by Travellers and members of the Traveller community with the aim of achieving equality and recognition for Travellers as a uniquely marginalised minority ethnic group. Ever since, OTM has continuously worked to achieve equality and social justice for Travellers both nationally and locally in county Offaly in partnership with the wider community.
Today, Offaly Traveller Movement is a Traveller led community development organisation working to achieve full equality for the Traveller community throughout County Offaly. With a team of 26 staff made up of Travellers and non-Travellers we offer programmes and services in health promotion, mental health, accommodation, youth and education to advance the health and welfare of Travellers and to encourage active participation in society. We provide opportunities for Travellers to develop their skills and knowledge and working in partnership to build the community’s and service providers capacity to meet the needs of and improve outcomes for Travellers. We support Travellers to reach their full potential and develop initiatives to tackle poverty, social exclusion, disadvantage and discrimination. OTM also contributes to the development of local and national policy for positive outcomes in the lives of Travellers.
Irish Travellers are a small indigenous minority ethnic group who have been part of Irish Society for centuries. They have a distinct set of values, customs, traditions and culture that sets them apart from the majority population. The All-Ireland Traveller Health Study 2010 suggests that the island of Ireland is home to an estimated 40,129 Irish Travellers (AITHS, 2010).
Travellers were formally recognised as a distinct ethnic group on March 1 st 2017. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said “Our Traveller Community is an integral part of our society for over a millennium, with their own distinct identity – a people within our people…It is a historic day for our Travellers and a proud day for Ireland.” Although this is largely symbolic acknowledging and valuing the uniqueness of Traveller culture and identity, it does not create any new rights, it means naming Travellers as a protected group in Irish equality legislation as well as inclusion in state anti-discrimination and inter-cultural initiatives. However, this is significant for Offaly Traveller Movement in the context of our work and experiences of the societal disregard of our people. We hope that recognition of our ethnicity is merely the beginning of things to come, and OTM will continue to endeavour to work towards full equality, and highlight the need for legislative and political change.