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1st March 2017, 20:02:39 UTC

Amnesty International has welcomed this evening’s statement from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD formally recognising Travellers as a distinct ethnic group. This has been a longstanding recommendation by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as they meet the internationally recognised criteria for such a group.

“We welcome today’s historic announcement acknowledging Travellers’ unique identity as a distinct ethnic group. It is more than a symbolic step, but an important recognition of the community’s heritage and identity. Travellers in Ireland continue to suffer substantial levels of racial discrimination. They are more likely to be unemployed and living in poverty than people in the settled community. Today’s announcement is not about bestowing privileges, but ensuring that Travellers are able to achieve the same equality of opportunity and treatment to which everyone in Ireland, Traveller or settled, is entitled,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

In May 2016, the European Committee of Social Rights ruled, in European Roma Rights Centre v Ireland, that Travellers faced a violation of their right to social, legal and economic protection on the grounds of insufficient provision of accommodation, poor conditions of many sites and inadequate safeguards when threatened with and during evictions. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also raised concerns over structural discrimination against Traveller and Roma children, including in their access to education, health and an adequate standard of living.