On March 1st 2017 the Irish state, after decades of decades of campaigning by the Traveller community, formally recognised Traveller ethnicity. On the night of March 1st in Dail Eireann Enda Kenny stated, “As Taoiseach I wish now to formally recognise Travellers as a distinct ethnic group with the Irish nation. It is a historic day for our Travellers and a proud day for Ireland”.
To mark this momentous event a number of organisations including Pavee Point, Irish Traveller Movement, and the National Traveller Womens Forum amongst others are hosting a free celebration at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham Dublin on Thursday March 15th from 11 am to 6pm with a wide range of exhibitions, workshops, films, children’s activities and much more for all the family.
These include a performance by writer and actor Michael Collins, music by Frances Black, Selina O Leary and Thomas McCarthy, exhibitions on traditional cures, tin craft and Traveller songs, music and stories from the National Folklore Collection at UCD. There will also be art and photographic exhibitions. The event is free and open to all.
For more detail on the comprehensive programme of activities for the day see http://ethnicitycelebration.ie/
A number of people from Sligo Traveller Support Group (STSG) will also be attending event in Dublin. A spokesperson for STSG said, “ We are really looking forward to attending what should be fantastic event. There is a diverse range of things on that are free of charge and for all the family. The recognition of Traveller ethnicity by the Irish state was very welcome last year and was long overdue. However the recognition of ethnicity needs to be more than symbolic in nature and must be followed by real practical actions that will improve the lives of Travellers in Ireland.
"There is a huge accommodation and housing crisis across the country and Travellers are drastically impacted by this. Since 2000 over 55 million of money for Traveller accommodation went unspent. In 2017 over 4.1 million alone was retuned by local authorities unspent. This isn’t acceptable when there are so many families living without adequate running water, no sanitation facilities and severe overcrowding.
"In the area of mental health Traveller men have a suicide rate over 7 times higher than the rest of the population, the figure is 6 times higher for women. Discrimination is also a priority issue. In a recent survey by Behaviour and Attitudes it was found that that 2% of people said they would “avoid” Polish people compared to 35% for Travellers.
"There is a growing sense of deep frustration in the Traveller community that the recognition of ethnicity has not brought any real change to peoples lives. This will continue to grow. Only through drastic action in areas like accommodation, mental health and discrimination will this change.”