Travellers should be recognised as distinct ethnicity

Travellers should be recognised as having a distinct ethnicity, the Government will be told.

Travellers should be recognised as distinct ethnicity

However, the recommendation from the justice and equality committee will echo the previous committee’s call from two years ago which was largely ignored.

Emily Logan, the Chief Human Rights and Equality Commissioner, told the committee she had hoped the Carrickmines tragedy in which 10 people died last year would have changed attitudes.

However, she said institutional prejudice remained “pervasive”, as borne out when she met with the local council to discuss accommodating the survivors and found officials were more responsive to those members of the public objecting to the accommodation plans.

“That is not to suggest that the individual people held prejudicial views but these people had had no training whatsoever and had not been given any understanding or guidance on how to make culturally appropriate decisions,” she said.

Commissioner David Joyce told the committee there was no legal barrier to recognition — which could be done by way of ministerial order — and no legal implications. “There will be no flood of cases before the courts,” he said.

The committee was also assured there was no cost implication as money was already available from central government. After the Carrickmines fire, it was discovered that a number of local authorities had not drawn down money allocated for Traveller accommodation.

The members also heard that both Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Equality Minister David Stanton had voiced no objection to recognition.

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien questioned the lack of movement on the issue.

“Is it any wonder that people stand up and say no Travellers in my backyard when they look at the State and the example the Sate has given? By acknowledging their ethnicity it’s almost saying we treated them wrong for the last 40 years and we are not willing to admit that yet.”

Ms Logan said it was “very difficult to understand” but she added: “We should not pretend or hide the fact that it creates discomfort. “

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