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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland Crissie Ward and her daughter Martina at a protest in 1984 calling for more Traveller rights.
# Equality
Move to recognise Traveller ethnicity after long campaign shows 'Ireland's commitment to human rights'
After a long-fought campaign, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he supported the recognition of Traveller ethnicity this week.

THE DECISION MADE by Taoiseach Enda Kenny this week to support the recognition of Traveller ethnicity has been described as “historic” by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

Kenny has asked Minister of State at the Department of Justice David Stanton to prepare a report for the social affairs committee on the question of recognising Traveller ethnicity.

The report is due back in a few weeks and it’s expected there will be cross-party support for the move.

The Taoiseach said there are no constitutional barriers to the initiative, stating that the government is looking to the examples of what was done in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

For over twenty years, there has been pressure placed on the government to take steps to recognise Traveller ethnicity.

In October 2015, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission told the United Nations Human Rights Council that Travellers should be recognised by the Irish government as an ethnic minority.

23/11/106. Pavee Point Launch. The Pavee Point Tra Eamonn Farrell Crowds gather at the Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre in Dublin at the launch of a position paper on Traveller Mens Health this week. Eamonn Farrell

Last month the United Nations called on Ireland “to conduct and finalise a timely review of the request for recognition of the Travellers as an ethnic group”, as well as “give special emphasis to employment, access to health care and the right to housing in the application of the national strategy on the inclusion of Travellers and Roma”.

Ireland in 1984. 1984 Irish Archives. Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland Crissie Ward and her daughter Martina at a protest in 1984 calling for more Traveller rights. Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

After the long-fought campaign for Traveller ethnicity to be recognised, there was positive feedback following the announcement.

Chief Commissioner Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan tweeted that it was “great to see political consensus” on the issue and welcomed Enda Kenny publically stating his support.

She stated:

The logic of the Irish State’s ongoing refusal to recognise Traveller ethnicity was questioned only this week by the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner in our meeting with him, but has also been consistently challenged by UN bodies.
Cross-party support for recognition of Traveller ethnicity was confirmed in the Oireachtas report on this issue from 2014, now we must ensure cross party support combined with the Taoiseach’s personal commitment sees Travellers given the recognition the community deserves.

“These words from An Taoiseach, show that in this centenary year of equality, that this State is now moving to recognise the ethnicity of our own indigenous community, and shows Ireland’s determination in protecting and respecting human rights and equality,” she added.

Pavee Point – who represent the advocate on behalf of the Travelling community – have called for Travellers to be recognised as a minority ethnic group for many years stating that it would help Travellers attain human rights and improve living conditions.

The issue was recently discussed at a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, where a number of members of the community made representations as to what it would mean for them.

Bernard Joyce of Irish Traveller Movement told the committee earlier this month that the recognition of Traveller ethnicity would not be a “silver bullet” to end discrimination but would be “part of the process”.

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Acknowledging the delay in successive governments in addressing the issue, chair of the committee Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD told members at the time that he had felt “a repeat sense of shame” when hearing about the treatment of Travellers.

Shame on the tragedy of Carrickmines and the fact, as has just been recorded, that it could happen again. Shame at the evictions in Dundalk, not once but repeated, shame at the closure of school doors and shame at the media who continue to label.

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