Cork City Council backs granting Travellers their own ethnic status

City council becomes first in Ireland to support measure

Tinsmith Tom McDonnell  was awarded overall winner at the Traveller Pride Awards last month. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Tinsmith Tom McDonnell was awarded overall winner at the Traveller Pride Awards last month. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Tue, Jun 11, 2013, 17:18

Cork City Council has become the first local authority in Ireland to support granting Travellers their own ethnic status.

The motion, put forward to Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent, comes from calls for the Travelling community to be classed as an ethnic group by members of the Irish Traveller Movement.

Director of the Irish Traveller Movement Brigid Quilligan said she hopes the vote will act as an incentive to other councils to follow suit.

“Their decision has resonated strongly with Traveller delegates today in attendance at our annual conference here in Cavan who raised concerns about anti-traveller racism expressed earlier this year by elected officials and public representatives,” she said.

“It also demonstrates a mature acknowledgement of the long overdue human rights requirement to have Traveller ethnicity formally recognised by the Irish state.”

Mr Nugent said he was delighted his motion passed and that it brought society one step closer to acknowledging the role members of the Travelling community have 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,” he said.

“I am aware of the realities on the ground 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 Travelling community is already considered an ethnic status in the United Kingdom after a landmark court judgement in 2000. At 2pm tomorrow a second presentation will be made to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice on the matter of Traveller ethnicity recognition.