A YOUNG mother living in Donegal is bidding to become the first Traveller elected to the Oireachtas.
Eileen Ní Fhloinn (30) lives in Ardara with her husband Liam Whyte and their five-month old baby daughter Billie. She is running for the Seanad on the Labour panel having been nominated by Killybegs Independent TD Thomas Pringle and three People before Profit TDs, namely Brid Smith, Gino Kenny and Richard Boyd Barrett.
Speaking to the Donegal News from Dublin on Wednesday, Ms Ní Fhloinn said that she was an Irish Traveller Woman challenging inequalities in society, not just in the Traveller community but for all that suffer marginalisation.
Born and raised in Labre Park, Ballyfermot, the first site built specifically for Travellers by a Local Authority in Ireland, she’s quick to stress that she’s not a one trick pony.
“I am a daughter, a mother and so much more. I’m a Traveller and have their rights at my very heart but so too do I have the rights of all those at the margins of Irish society – the working class people, those who haven’t got the money to rent homes and the homeless. Domestic violence – against both men and women – is also a key focus as are children’s rights and LGBT+ rights. I’m involved in so much,” she said.
“I’m not just looking for equality for Travellers, I want to see and live in a world where everybody is treated properly,” she added.
Eileen’s husband Liam stood as an Independent candidate in last year’s local elections where he secured 822 first preference votes.
“He got a phenomenal response from the people of Ardara,” she said.
The couple first met at a rally in Dublin seven years ago.
“It was a protest against Sean McEniff who had suggested that all Travellers should be sent to Spike Island. We became friends and have since married. We live in Ardara and while I’ll do as much lobbying as I can over the next few weeks I’m also mindful that I have a five month old daughter to look after. I will continue to lobby until voting day, March 16, but I certainly won’t be travelling the length and breadth of the country looking for votes,” she said.
A number of high profile people, including journalist Vincent Browne, are backing Ms Ní Fhloinn’s campaign for a Senate seat.
“She is very much deserving of support. If elected she would be the first Traveller person elected to the Oireachtas,” he wrote.
Newly elected TD for Donegal, Padraig MacLochlainn is also from a Traveller background.
“I was speaking to Padraig and he does not identify as a Traveller. Don’t get me wrong. He has Traveller heritage but basically he’s never lived the life. Both my mammy and daddy are Traveller. I was born and raised in Labre Park, a halting site in Ballyfermot, and my identity is Traveller woman,” she said.
Meanwhile, two Donegal politicians have declared for this year’s Seanad elections following the closing of nominations on Monday.
Former Fianna Fail TD Niall Blaney and out-going Senator Brian O Domhnaill are bidding to win seats on the agricultural panel.