Traveller Ethnicity Debated in Dáil Eireann

This week saw Traveller ethnicity debated for the first time in Dáil Eireann and gave rise to a passionate plea from Equality Minister Aodhán O Riordáin to move away from ‘focus group equality’ to stand by the truth.  “The truth is that the Travelling community in this State, in this Republic are a distinct ethnic group,” he said.

Mr Ó Riordáin said he had long been an advocate for Traveller ethnicity but his efforts have been somewhat frustrated because he is told  to take account of public opinion.  He added: “The very fact that advocating for the rights of a minority is unpopular is the very reason we should drive forward to ensure that equality is realised.”

Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein also spoke passionately  in favour of Traveller ethnicity as did Padraig MacLochlainn of Sinn Fein who proposed the Private Members Motion.

The Government responded that it was considering the question of the formal recognition of Travellers.  Its amendment to the original motion was voted in.

Many Traveller representatives and supporters attended the debate and were present for the vote.

“The defeat of the Sinn Fein motion was not unexpected but it was important and symbolic that the Dail would have a debate on Traveller issues,” said Pavee Point Co Director Martin Collins.  “Debates like this will make the Dáil much more meaningful and relevant to the Travelling community.”