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Tánaiste should act on Traveller ethnicity at UN today - Adams

11 May, 2016 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the government to “honour its commitment 19 months ago to recognise Traveller ethnicity and to make a firm commitment to do this within a clear and short time frame and to introduce any legislation that may be necessary.”

The Sinn Féin leader called on the Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald in her presentation to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva today to “state unequivocally that the government recognises the Traveller Community as an ethnic minority, with all the rights and protections this provides.”

The Tánaiste will be questioned on a wide range of human rights matters that the government has failed to act on, including homelessness, the rights of the disabled and the rights of children. She will also be questioned on the failure of the government to recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority.

Gerry Adams said:

“In November 2014 the then Minister of State for Equality Aodhán Ó Riordáin told a Travellers event in Dublin that official recognition of Travellers ethnicity would be ‘a reality’ in six months.

“Nineteen months later and the government has failed to honour this commitment and to accede to the calls from the United Nations and the Irish Human Rights Commission for this important human rights step be taken.

“The reality is that Travellers are recognised in the north and in Britain as a distinct ethnic group with their own culture and way of life.

“The failure of the state to recognise the ethnicity of Travellers and to provide the necessary protections in law has contributed to the appalling and shameful treatment of the 23 Traveller families who were evicted from the Woodland Park halting site in January. Since then further evictions have occurred, including again this week, as families with nowhere to go are forced to park illegally.

“The distress and trauma for the families that resulted from the January evictions and especially for the children was unreasonable and unnecessary.

“It was also illustrative of the treatment of Traveller families in many other places across the state.

“The government should take immediate steps to honour the commitment made 19 months ago to recognise Traveller ethnicity.

“It should implement the recommendations of the April 2014 Report by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on the Recognition of Traveller Ethnicity.

“And it should establish an All-Ireland forum involving Travellers and the settled community, including representatives of all political parties, central Government, local authorities, health and education sectors and representatives of media organisations.

“Finally, it should ensure that local councils draw down the money set aside for Traveller specific accommodation and make available any additional funding needed to deal with this issue one and for all.”

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