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Travellers as an ethnic minority

The issue of Travellers as an ethnic minority was again raised in the Dail, with the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Kathleen Lynch, informing Gerry Adams (SF, Louth) that serious consideration was being given to such recognition (Dail Eireann, Debates, 19th September 2012, 49-50).  During the examination of the Irish report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, one delegation recommended that Ireland should recognize Travellers as an ethnic minority, while other interventions were of a more general nature.  The minister was aware of the long-standing wish of many Travellers for such status, but the previous government was of the view that Travellers were not an ethnic minority and this was not necessarily the unanimous view of all Travellers.  Dialogue had taken place between departmental staff and Traveller organizations and in addition, the national Traveller monitoring and advisory committee had established a sub-group to consider the issue.  The question would come before the government for decision as soon as possible.  She told Padraig Mac Lochlainn (SF, Donegal NE) that informal consultation would continue.  It was important not to cause additional or any other friction in any community.  Consideration and consultation must be on-going.  


Padraig Mac Lochlainn asked: with whom was she consulting and when could we expect definable action?  He spoke of his alarm of the comments of a district court judge who referred to members of the Traveller community as neanderthal.  If that was the standard we could expect from district court judges, it was no wonder that there was an environment of racism.  The minister of state told him that the department was consulting a wide range of people.  Many different organizations represented the Traveller community.  She was not certain when the consultation process would conclude, nor, following it, whether legislation would be introduced.


Niall Collins (FF, Limerick) said that they were all concerned for genuine Travellers who found themselves in difficult situations, but unfortunately there was an abuse of the term and this was happening in his constituency around Rathkeale.  Many people engaged in blatant criminality used it as a flag of convenience behind which to hide.  She asked the minister of state to provide them with a briefing and there was a need for a full-scale discussion of the issue in the house.  It affected not only genuine members of the Traveller community but the wider public in terms of the activities in which people who claimed to be Travellers were engaged.  The minister of state agreed to provide a briefing but said that as was the case with all groups in society, some people were criminals and others not.  Members of the settled community also engaged in criminal activity, but we were not all tarred with the same brush.