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Question

50. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on her statement on 1 March 2017 regarding Traveller ethnicity here; and if she will elaborate on the matter. [11616/17]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): As the Deputy will know, the Taoiseach announced State recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group in Ireland on 1 March 2017. I would like to thank Deputy Martin and all of the other Deputies who spoke on that occasion for supporting that statement. This event was historic and memorable. I was delighted to note that there was an all-party consensus on the issue and I take the opportunity to commend the Deputy also in that regard.
There are no legal or expenditure implications arising from this State recognition of Travellers; the Taoiseach's statement was about recognition and respect and not about creating any new rights or rights that do not already exist. The key argument for recognition of Traveller ethnicity was that recognition of the distinct heritage, culture and identity of Travellers and their special place in Irish society will be hugely and symbolically important to Traveller pride and self-esteem and overcoming the legacy of economic marginalisation, discrimination and low self-esteem with which the Traveller community struggles. This is not to ignore the real problems that Travellers face but this symbolic gesture will create a new platform for positive engagement by the Traveller community and the Government in together seeking sustainable solutions based on respect and an honest dialogue on these issues and challenges.
The statement by the Taoiseach announcing State recognition of Traveller ethnicity was the culmination of a long-standing campaign by Travellers to have their identity, culture and unique position valued by their formal recognition as a distinct ethnic group. As the Taoiseach stressed, this is without prejudice to Travellers being part of, and self-identifying as part of, the Irish nation. This historic statement is also a new beginning and the start of the work that we need to do as a society, in partnership with Travellers, to address the real and stark issues that face the Traveller community in areas such as health, employment, education and accommodation. I will present my plans to address these issues in the new National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy which I will, in consultation with other Departments and Traveller and Roma representatives, finalise shortly. I look forward to continuing to work with Travellers as part of what will be a Strategy with an ambitious set of objectives.