Ireland recognises Travellers as ethnic group

Existing and future legislation will extend to the group

Ireland recognises Travellers as ethnic group

Image: Oireachtas TV

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has officially recognised the ethnic status of the Traveller community, calling it a "great privilege" to be the person to do so.

Mr Kenny has told the Dáil it should help Traveller families have a better future with less negativity, exclusion and marginalisation.

The Taoiseach called it a "deep and personal issue", highlighting the long-running campaign from the Travelling Community in an effort to have their identity recognised.

He also said the statement aims to counter the stigma and shame felt by Travellers over the years.

"No one should have to hide their culture to be respected in society," he said. "I hope today will create a new platform for positive engagement with the government and the Travelling Community."

Mr Kenny said he hopes the statement has a "transformative effect" on societal relations with the Travelling Community.

The statement was met with a standing ovation in the Dáil, with Fianna Fáil leader Mícheal Martin warmly welcoming the declaration.

"I believe we can create a much more positive story into the future," he said, acknowledging the work of the Justice Committee on the statement. "It's about being willing to recognise and value difference."

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said: "Travellers have waited a long time for this moment and I am glad that I have been able to see their aspiration for proper recognition come to fruition."

President Michael D Higgins welcomed the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority saying: "As President of Ireland I very much welcome today’s announcement of the formal recognition of Irish Travellers as an indigenous ethnic minority.

"This is a momentous decision, formally recognising Travellers' place in Irish society."

The Irish Traveller Movement say the acknowledgement validates and supports their place in Irish society. 

They also believe this has the potential to elevate Traveller status in the mind-set of the State and all its citizens.

It also means Travellers are automatically included in anti-racism and integration policies.

They will also have automatic inclusion in future domestic legislation.

Mr Kenny added that a new national strategy for the Travelling and Roma Community is being developed by TD David Stanton.

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