Friday 26th Wexford Arts Center


frederick douglass festival wexford

Sen. Eileen Flynn Chair/intro Deirdre Wadding

A trailblazer in her community, Flynn graduated from Maynooth University with a BA in Community & Youth Work in 2017, and is among 167 Travellers of a population of 40,000 to have obtained a third-level qualification. Flynn grew up in Labre Park in Ballyfermot, which was one of the first Traveller halting sites built by a local authority in Ireland. Now she is one of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s 11 nominees to the Seanad.

One of Flynn’s lecturers in the Department of Applied Social Studies, Dr Oonagh McArdle, has described Maynooth University as a “learning lab” for the recently appointed Senator. Flynn agrees, saying that while in the Seanad, she is intent on applying the skills and knowledge she learned while studying at MU. “I do it with the heart and the eyes of a community development worker,” she said. In her first speech in the Oireachtas, Flynn expressed hope that she “would be that person that would break down barriers for Travellers.” And she is already making headway, as the newly-appointed chair of the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community. The key issues under considerations are Traveller health, including suicide levels, which are six times higher than the general population; school completion rates and educational attainment; labour market participation — Traveller unemployment rate is 80% — and access to housing and accommodation. Additionally, Flynn has firmly in her sight new hate crime legislation, as well as the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill to include Traveller history and culture as part of the education curriculum.