Pavee Point presents to Dáil Committee on Traveller Ethnicity

Pavee Point was among a number of groups who spoke on Traveller ethnicity at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on Wednesday 9th November 2016. This was our second time to present to this Committee on this issue.

This particular Committee consists of newly elected TDs who, we felt, were receptive to what we had to say and many committee members are already convinced of the rationale and evidence for such recognition

In our opening statement Ronnie Fay, Co Director, given previous commitments to recognise Traveller ethnicity, called on the State to explain its rational for not recognising Traveller ethnicity.

Policy Not Implemented

She went on to say that one of the arguments against recognition is that successive Governments have stated recognition would not entitle Travellers to any additional rights and protections. So what would be the point of granting recognition?

Ms. Fay went on to say that this attitude misses the point.

Pavee Point contends that the Government’s persistence in not recognising Travellers as an ethnic group reveals or reflects a mindset and policy project that continues to be assimilationist. In other words a mindset that aims to turn Travellers into settled people. We say that the persistence of this mindset has been a major contributory factor in ensuring that many of the key recommendations of Government’s own policy have not been implemented – especially in the area of Traveller accommodation.

Denial of Racism

Ms Fay also stated the lack of recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group demonstrates a continuing reluctance by Government to acknowledge that Travellers experience racism.

In short, the implicit Government position is that Travellers suffer a discrimination that is unique to Travellers and which is unspecified – but which is not racism.

Pavee Point contends that the continued lack of recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group and the lack of explicit acknowledgement that they experience racism, have much deeper consequences than an abstract sociological debate and are major contributing factors to the slow pace of change and the confused and sometimes contradictory policy approaches of Government interventions relating to Travellers in recent years.

Human Rights Issue

In his presentation Martin Collins Co Director also stated that the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority is not some abstract, ideological debate.

The recognition of Traveller ethnicity is fundamentally a human rights issue. It has implications for policy development and service provision,” he said referring to Ms. Fay’s explanations to the Committee.

Not Less Irish

It’s not as some would say to make you less Irish, there’s no conflict between nationality and ethnicity, I’m very proud of my Irish-ness but I’m equally as proud of my Traveller identity,” said Mr. Collins.

It is my strong belief that in the absence of this recognition, the sub text to the narrative continues to be one of viewing my community as dysfunctional and primitive, a people who need to be rehabilitated and civilized. This can lead to internalized oppression, shame, low self-esteem, depression and suicide,” he concluded.

This committee are due to make their report and recommendations in the  near future.

Full presentation by Ms. Ronnie Fay

Full presentation by Mr. Martin Collins

Traveller Ethnicity – Why it is so Important