1.3.17. Ireland. Dublin. Leinster House. On the day of the statement in the Dail recognising the unique ethnic identity of the Irish Travelling Community by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD. ©Photo by Derek Speirs
(additional caption information available from Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre)

The 1st March 2017 was an historic and momentous day for the Irish Traveller community and for equality in Ireland.

This announcement shines a light on Travellers’ rich distinct history and culture and sends out a message of respect and inclusion,” said Martin Collins, Pavee Point Director at the announcement of State recognition of Traveller ethnicity.

It also lays to rest notions that Travellers are a primitive, dysfunctinonal, failed settled people who originated from the famine and who just need to be normalised and civilised by the State, “ he added.

Great excitement at Dáil Eireann on 1st of March. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Great excitement at Dáil Eireann on 1st of March. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

A great crowd waiting to get into Dáil Eireann for Taoiseach's statement on Traveller ethnicity ©Photo by Derek Speirs

A great crowd waiting to get into Dáil Eireann for Taoiseach’s statement on Traveller ethnicity ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Kathleen Reilly, Kathleen Lawrence and Tracey Reilly among the crowd at  Dáil Eireann ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Kathleen Reilly, Kathleen Lawrence and Tracey Reilly among the crowd at Dáil Eireann ©Photo by Derek Speirs

This announcement heralds a new positive starting point in relations between Travellers and the majority population – a relationship that can only flourish and develop when founded on the vital principle of equality.

People moved to song outside Dáil Eireann ©Photo by Derek Speirs

People moved to song outside Dáil Eireann ©Photo by Derek Speirs

For me it is also significant that this announcement comes in the month where I can also celebrate my nationality – the month of March and the feast of Saint Patrick,” said Mr. Collins.

Media and music outside Dáil at historic statement. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Media and music outside Dáil at historic statement. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Jack Delany and Bernie McDonagh celebrating recognition of Traveller ethnicity ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Jack Delany and Bernie McDonagh celebrating recognition of Traveller ethnicity ©Photo by Derek Speirs

John Paul Collilns, Patrick Reilly,  James Reilly and Michael Collins at Dáil Eireann. ©Photo by Derek Speirs.

John Paul Collilns, Patrick Reilly, James Reilly and Michael Collins at Dáil Eireann. ©Photo by Derek Speirs.

Lots of happy faces at  Dáil Eireann ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Lots of happy faces at Dáil Eireann ©Photo by Derek Speirs

If the shamrock was used by Saint Patrick for religious teaching it can also be a symbol for the multi-faceted idea of nationality. One nationality can embody many different ethnicities.”

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We know that acknowledging Traveller ethnicity does not solve the problems that Travellers face in their daily lives – discrimination, unemployment, lack of proper accommodation and poor educational outcomes.

But respect for our culture has the potential to deconstruct centuries of internalised shame within the Traveller community and allow future generations of Travellers to grow up with pride in their identity.”

Pavee Point has been campaigning on Traveller ethnicity for over 30 years. This campaigning has faced various types of highs and lows. This announcement makes it all worthwhile.

As the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said: ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’Today we move into this third phase.

Ireland’s standing in the international human rights community has also increased as a result of today’s important announcement.

For more information on the importance of Traveller ethnicity click here.