"We need a politician with a pair of balls" - Calls for recognition of travellers as ethnic minority

The Irish Human Rights Commission says no law change is needed

"We need a politician with a pair of balls" - Calls for recognition of travellers as ethnic minority

Actor and member of the travelling community, Michael Collins, speaking in 2005 | Image: RollingNews.ie

Recognition by the Irish Government of travellers as an ethnic minority would encourage a sense of self-worth and acceptance.

That is according to actor and playwright Michael Collins, who says Ireland is the only European Union country to not give this recognition.

His comments come after the head of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Emily Logan told the Oireachtas Justice Committee there is "no legal impediment" to the recognition.

Just over one year on from the deaths of 10 people at a temporary halting site in Carrickmines, Ms Logan said: "There appears to be no legal impediment to recognition of traveller ethnicity.

"This important legal change to recognise our indigenous traveller community does not require a referendum, it does not even require primary legislation.

"The Government committed in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011 to recognise traveller ethnicity. What is required is not even a ministerial Order, but a statement in the Dáil.

"It therefore begs the question why this has not happened."

Commissioner Logan has called for 'political leadership' on the recognition of a distinct culture and identity for travellers in Ireland.

According to Census 2011, the total number of Irish travellers recorded was 29,573 - accounting for 0.6% of the total population.

While Mr Collins told the Pat Kenny Show here on Newstalk the recognation would be a simple process.

"We need a politician with a pair of balls to stand up and say something - or one of the women - to stand up and say 'listen, we need to recognise these people as an ethnic minority group'".