Fine Gael chairman dismisses Traveller ethnic group call as political correctness
A call by a Dail committee to officially recognise the Traveller community as an ethnic group has been dismissed as "political correctness" by the Fine Gael party chairman.
A report by the Oireachtas Justice Committee has recommended that Taoiseach Enda Kenny or Justice Minister Alan Shatter makes a statement in the Dail confirming the State recognises the ethnicity of the Traveller community.
The committee also called on the Government to liaise with Traveller representative groups about any new laws needed.
The recommendation was welcomed by the Irish Traveller Movement, which said it consolidates more firmly the importance of acknowledging Travellers' outstanding human, legal and cultural rights.
But Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan said that, although he is pro-Traveller, he disagrees with the recommendation. The Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman said he found the argument put forward by the committee as "less than persuasive".
"I believe Travellers are Irish like the rest of us – no better, no worse," he said.
Mr Flanagan said the Central Statistics Office has already identified 10 different ethnic groups in the country.
"Do we now accord special ethnic status to Protestants, Jews and people from Connemara? I think this is more political correctness than Traveller rights," he said.
Mr Flanagan said he didn't think the move is going to provide the legal standing some people think it will.
The Oireachtas committee has also called on the Government to write to all of the relevant international bodies confirming the decision.
The report has been sent to the Department of Justice.
Mr Shatter's office said the report will be taken into account as part of the ongoing deliberations on the issue.
Sinn Fein TD Padraig MacLochlainn said that the committee's decision was "historic".
"The formal recognition by the State of Traveller ethnicity will not be a magic wand or formula that can address the challenges faced by the Traveller community.
"But it would be a major step forward and a permanent and positive realignment of the relationship between the settled community and the Traveller community in Ireland," he said.