Tuesday 19 September 2017

No room in Dáil but Traveller ethnicity recognised at last

Travellers and supporters outside the Dáil as the Taoiseach announces that their distinct ethnicity is to be recognised by the State. Photo: RollingNews.ie
Travellers and supporters outside the Dáil as the Taoiseach announces that their distinct ethnicity is to be recognised by the State. Photo: RollingNews.ie

Gavin White

Hundreds of members of the Travelling community were left stranded outside the Dáil as the Government officially recognised their ethnicity.

Anti-Austerity-Alliance/People Before Profit TDs Ruth Coppinger and Bríd Smith tried to get more people into the chamber for the historic day.

But there was insufficient personnel to help usher the waiting crowd in.

A spokesperson for the Houses of the Oireachtas said: "We were at full capacity with 170 visitors inside the house as well as accommodating people in an overflow room [which] would accommodate around 40 people.

"We had been liaising with the various groups throughout the day to try to accommodate as many people as possible.

"We had the same arrangements as we would on similar occasions such as the budget or the election of a new taoiseach."

The spokesperson said "it was just not possible" to accommodate the people waiting outside.

The Government's recognition of Traveller ethnicity was heralded as a "grievous wrong that has been righted" by the head of the Children's Rights Alliance.

"Today is an extraordinary day for Ireland and momentous for the thousands of Traveller children who have suffered for too long from exclusion and discrimination," Tanya Ward, its CEO, said.

Research from the group found Traveller children are three-and-a-half times more likely to die in infancy than non-Travellers, while they leave school an average of five years earlier.

"Recognising Traveller ethnicity will not fix these problems overnight, but it will help Ireland get to grips with the discrimination and disadvantage that many Traveller children face in their lives.

"It sends a clear message of respect for the rights of the Traveller community," she said.

"We applaud the many Traveller groups and individuals who have been steadfast in their advocacy for years to achieve this change."

Ms Ward said the historic recognition would not have been possible if it was not for the work of Pavee Point, the Irish Traveller Movement and the Traveller Visibility Group, among others.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny heralded a "historic day for our Travellers and a proud day for Ireland".

Irish Independent

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