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Dublin: 14°C Monday 18 October 2021

UN may ask Ireland to consider ethnic status for Travellers

The establishment of Traveller agency, and recognition as an ethic group, are proposals before a UN committee this month.

Children at a traveller halting site in west County Dublin in 2005.
Children at a traveller halting site in west County Dublin in 2005.
Image: Julien Behal/PA Archive

A UNITED NATIONS committee is to be consider asking Ireland to recognise Travellers as a distinct ethnic group, and to establish a separate agency to deal with Traveller affairs.

Motions recognising Traveller people as belonging to a hitherto unrecognised ethnic group are to go before the UN’s Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination later this month, the Irish Times reports.

The committee, which meets in a month-long session from February 14 to March 11 in Geneva, will hear submissions from Ireland on how the state does not believe Travellers constitute a group distinct from the rest of the country “in terms of race, colour, descent or ethnic origin”.

The government says that it acknowledges the discrimination the community faces, however, and has given a legal safeguard against that discrimination in law.

But Pavee Point Travellers’ Centre yesterday launched its own shadow document to go before the committee, which claims Ireland’s view is contrary to recommendations from the Committee itself, the UN and the Council of Europe.

If Ireland was to recognise Travellers as a distinct ethnic group, the group says, the Traveller community would be assisted in overcoming some of the issues it faces – such as what it perceives as unfair treatment of Travellers in the justice system, where they are 18 times more likely to be imprisoned than a settled person.

Anastasia Crickley, an Irish member of the UN committee, said the Pavee Point report would be constructive in helping the elimination of racial discrimination in Ireland.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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