Irish government told to recognize Travelling Community as an ethnic minority

The Council of Europe found that members of the Travelling community continue to experience discrimination in accessing the labour market and health services in Ireland.

The Council of Europe has warned that Ireland needs to take action on discrimination against the Travelling community in the workplace – and wants Travellers recognized as an ethnic minority.

The Council has issued a report on what it calls the ‘de facto exclusion of members of the Travelling community in Ireland from the labour market.'

The Irish Times reports on the Council’s research into Ireland’s implementation of the European treaty on the protection of national minorities.

The paper says the human rights watchdog found that members of the Travelling community continue to experience discrimination in accessing the labour market and health services in Ireland.

The Council of Europe report found that, despite the “positive developments and the general climate of dialogue existing in Irish society," towards the Travelling community, Travellers face discrimination accessing health, education and accommodation.

The European document also noted that a large number of Travellers remain unemployed.

It quoted data from the 2006 Census which revealed a 75 percent unemployment rate for Travellers compared to 9 percent generally.

The Council of Europe report says: “The main reasons for this deplorable situation, identified by the Travellers themselves, are discriminatory practices and social exclusion leading to low self-esteem and poor performance in education.”

It also outlines that the school drop-out rate for children aged 15 from the travelling community according to the 2006 census stood at 63.2 percent, compared to 13.3 percent nationally.

Participation of travellers in higher education was 0.8 percent, compared to 30.2 percent of the national population.

Noting that Ireland does not recognize Travellers as a national minority, the report welcomed the fact that Irish authorities had introduced measures to recognise the community’s special position in society and to better protect their rights.

The Irish Times
says it highlighted the persistence of negative stereotypes regarding the community in some written press and electronic media, in particular with regard to criminality, abuse of social benefits and nomadism.

The report noted that political representation at both local and national level remains very low and added that the various Traveller representative bodies that have been set up remain purely advisory with no decision-making powers.

It also described the absence of any Roma representatives from the various Traveller committees that have been established by the State since 2007 as ‘regrettable’.

The Council of Europe has now urged Irish authorities to ‘finalise the consideration of the proposed recognition of travellers as an ethnic minority’.

In response the Irish government has confirmed that ethnic minority recognition for travellers is an ongoing issue.

The government noted that all the protections afforded to ethnic minorities in EU directives and international conventions apply to Travellers in Ireland.

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