Taoiseach formally recognises Traveller ethnicity in the Dáil

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has formally recognised the ethnic status of Irish Travellers for the first time in the Dáil this evening.

Enda Kenny addressed the Oireachtas after several TDs made pleas to delay proceedings and bring the huge crowd waiting outside the gates of the Dail inside to hear the historic speech.

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Due to operational reasons that was not possible according to the Ceann Comhairle, but those who did secure a place in the public gallery watched on with pride as Mr Kenny recognised Irish Travellers as a distinct ethnic group for the first time.

In his speech the Taoiseach described Travellers as an integral part of our society for over 1,000 years, and went on to describe them as “a people within a people”.

He finished his speech by saying: “May all the people of our nation live in shelter and never in the shadow of each other.”

Speaking about the expected announcement this morning on RTE Radio, Director of the Irish Traveller Movement , Brigid Quilligan said Travellers should be allowed to be proud.

She continued: “For that to happen our State needed to acknowledge our identity and our ethnicity and they're doing that today.

"We want every Traveller in Ireland to be proud of who they are and to say that we're not a failed set of people.

“We have our own unique identity and we shouldn't take on all of the negative aspects of what people think about us."

Meanwhile, Pavee Point Director Martin Collins said: “This announcement shines a light on Travellers’ rich distinct history and culture and sends out a message of respect and inclusion.

“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.

“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.”

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