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Cork City Council becomes first local authority to back traveller ethnicity

10 June, 2013

Cork City Council has become the first local authority in the state to support calls for the Traveller Community to be recognised as an ethnic group.

This followed councillors voting unanimously, at tonight's meeting, in favour of a motion tabled by Sinn Fein councillor Mick Nugent which expressed support for the campaign of the Irish Traveller Movement and other advocates of traveller ethnicity recognition.

Speaking this evening after his motion was passed Councillor Nugent said;

“Sinn Fein TD Padraig Maclochlainn is preparing a bill which provides for Traveller Ethnicity Recognition to put before the Dail soon. The Oireachtas Justice Committee has had a number of hearings on the issue and is due to publish a report.

“Travellers are already considered an ethnic group in the North of Ireland and in Britain where in a landmark court judgement in 2000 granted ethnic status.

“The cultural uniqueness of travellers was consolidated in the Equal Status Act 2000. However, this recognition is not enough. The UN committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination believes that travellers pass all the relevant criteria for ethnicity.

“There are a multitude of issues facing travellers in Ireland today. Health studies presented at the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee (LTACC) meetings were shocking, suicide rates and life expectancy figures are way out of sync with those of the settled community.

“Cut backs in education, health and other services have hit hard. I have said in the past that we need some form of community forum between travellers, the settled community and all relevant social stakeholders to trash out and discuss areas of mutual concern.

“I am delighted that Cork City Council has passed this motion tonight as the granting of ethnic status would be a hugely significant step in acknowledging the place of travellers in Irish culture and history.

“Of course the conferring of status would bring responsibilities and demands on travellers. However, it would confer certain rights in housing, healthcare and provide for positive support in accessing education and employment.

“I am aware of the realities on the grounds in terms of the difficulties that can exist in breaching the gap in understanding between the two communities. I did not propose this motion through rose-tinted glasses but rather through a lens of equality.

“The granting of ethnic status would be a first step towards mutual understanding & respect between both communities and Irish society as a whole.”


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