Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Department of Justice and Equality
As I have indicated previously, the question of recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group in Ireland is being considered in the context of the development of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy.
In September 2015, my predecessor brought a paper to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Social Policy on the question of recognising Travellers as a distinct ethnic group within Irish society. This followed a process of dialogue with the national level Traveller NGOs during 2015 which culminated in the presentation of an agreed position paper by them and confirmation that there are no legal or expenditure implications arising from such recognition. The key point is that recognition of the distinct heritage, culture and identity of Travellers and their special place in Irish society would be hugely important to Traveller pride, to Traveller self-esteem and to overcoming the legacy of marginalisation and discrimination that the community has experienced.
I have had a long standing interest in this area, most notably through my chairing of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality when it produced its report on the Recognition of Traveller Ethnicity (April 2014). My officials and I have been working to advance this matter and I made a presentation to the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy in December 2016. An an invitation has been extended to Traveller representatives to meet that Cabinet Committee to further these discussions.