Dáil recognition of Traveller ethnicity has no legal effect, says judge

Enda Kenny’s statement deemed irrelevant to Traveller family’s bid for accommodation

The "statement of recognition of Traveller ethnicity" made in the Dáil last March by former taoiseach Enda Kenny has no legal effect, a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice Robert Eagar ruled a homeless Traveller family is not entitled to amend its case aimed at having Clare County Council house it after its previous home burnt down so as to include claims based on the statement of recognition of Traveller ethnicity.

He said when initially seeking leave for judicial review the family could have advanced a claim based on grounds of ethnic bias contrary to article 40.1 of the Constitution but did not, and was now seeking to advance an “entirely different” case. He would not permit the family to advance such claims now.

He was also satisfied the statement of recognition of Traveller ethnicity the family sought to rely on in its proposed amendments had no legal effect. It “clearly is not legislation but fact” and has no legal effect for the purpose of the case.


The case concerns David Mongans, his wife Margaret Lisa and their four children who are living in a caravan on the Kilrush Road in Ennis.

They say they have been homeless since their home at Knockanean, Tulla Road, Ennis, was burnt in 2015, and have lived at different locations in the Ennis area, including with relatives and in a shed, before moving into the caravan.

They are on the council’s housing list and, in their judicial review proceedings, claim the council has failed in its obligations to house them.

Additional claims

They got leave in December 2016 for judicial review, but in June 2017 sought an extension of time to amend their proceedings to make additional claims, particularly relying on the statement for recognition of the Traveller community as an ethnic group, delivered to the Dáil on March 1st, 2017.

They claimed that statement further supported their housing application, and particularly their opposition to an indemnity sought from them on March 1st, 2017, by the council.

Mr Justice Eagar said, while satisfied he could extend time for judicial review, he would not permit the amendments because they amounted to an “entirely different” case.

In his Dáil statement Mr Kenny said he was formally recognising Travellers “as a distinct ethnic group within the Irish nation”, describing it as an “historic and symbolic” move.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times