Historic day as Justice Oireachtas Committee recommends State recognise Traveller Ethnicity

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Traveller Ethnicity today (Thursday 17th) published its report unanimously recommending that the State recgonise Traveller Ethnicity. This is a huge step towards finally reaching recognition of Traveller ethnicity and has been a core aim of ITM’s work since our formation in 1990, and a key strategic aim since 2008 when Blanchardstown Travellers Development Group proposed a motion that was adopted in Donegal that ITM develop a petition and campaign to bring about recognition of Traveller ethnicity.

“The recommendations outlined in this report should now be acted upon swiftly. It is no longer tenable for this State to deny Traveller ethnicity. It is long past time for this State to fully honour our responsibilities to the international conventions on human rights and to truly value and protect our Traveller communities”, said Padraig Mc Lochlainn, TD, rapporteur for the Committee.

The report outlines three steps on how formal State recognition of Traveller ethnicity could be brought about:
Step 1: That either the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice and Equality make a statement to Dáil Éireann confirming that this State recognises the ethnicity of the Travelling community.
Step 2: That the Government then writes to the relevant international bodies, confirming that this State recognises the ethnicity of the Travelling community.
Step 3: That the Government build on these initiatives and commence a time-limited dialogue with the Traveller representative groups about the new legislation or amendments to existing legislation now required.

Today’s report concludes with a quote from Irish Traveller Movement director, Brigid Quilligan, “We are not speaking about major changes; we are speaking about people who have been on the island of Ireland for as long as anybody can record and recognition for the valuable contribution we have made to Irish society. We are talking about having our own history recorded, rather than a history that has been written for us, imposed upon us and dictated to us. We are talking about setting the record straight and supporting our people to stand tall and feel they are a valuable part of Irish society.”

As a collective, we should all celebrate what is a milestone in our ethnicity campaign. So many have been involved in this journey that it would be pointless to try and remember and thank them all. All Traveller organisations have played a part in the last 24 years and especially in the 5 years as we rolled out our campaign within the community and with politicians and policy makers. We will be posting some of the key discussion pieces that shaped our analysis as a Movement on our facebook page over the next day or so to remind us all of all the work we have done- and even still that will not even come close to capturing those local discussions on ethnicity, the lobbying workshops, meetings held, briefings made, submissions made, local and national politicians lobbied, relationships built and most importantly, an engaged and active community behind and driving the campaign in order that their rights are achieved.

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