Updated: 02/03/17 : 05:18:04
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Sligo Traveller group welcome ethnicity recognition

Sligo Traveller Support Group (STSG) has expressed delight at yesterday's announcement by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that the Irish state will recognise Travellers as an ethnic group for the first time.

Mr Kenny got a rare standing ovation in the Dáil last night as he uttered words many of those attending had been waiting more than 30 years to hear.

“I wish to now formally recognise Travellers as an ethnic group. It is a historic day for our Travellers and a proud day for Ireland. ”

Deputies rose to their feet, many lifting their applause to the public gallery above, which was full of cheering Travellers who had come from all over the country. More Travellers who could not get into the House stood outside in the rain.

According to STSG the campaign to recognise Traveller ethnicity has been ongoing for decades and today’s events are of huge importance to Irelands estimated 30,000 Travellers. Numerous bodies have recommended for some time that the Irish state recognises Traveller ethnicity including the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the Ombudsman for Children, and a number of United Nations committees such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

Severe Disadvantage

A report last month by the ESRI, that highlighted the severe disadvantage suffered by Travellers in education, accommodation and health also recommended the recognition of ethnicity as did the Joint Committee on Equality and Justice in their report to government. As part of their report they stated “Travellers are, de facto, a separate ethnic group, this is not a gift to be bestowed upon them, but a fact the State ought to formally acknowledge”     

Commenting on the announcement STSG manger  Bernadette Maughan said “This is a truly historic day for Travellers in Ireland. After years of hard work we are absolutely delighted that our unique culture, identity, history and ethnicity will be formally recognised by the state. On a practical level it will help direct much needed targeted services at those who need education, medical and accommodation supports.

"What is as important though is the confidence this historic announcement will give us as a community to meet the challenges that we face. It is also fantastic for young Travellers in that they can now grow up confident that their own identity, culture and history is as important as any other group in society”.