Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 December 2020
Irish Travellers are a traditionally nomadic ethnic minority indigenous to Ireland. Although recognized as an ethnic minority in adjacent jurisdictions, the Irish state persistently and explicitly denied recognizing Travellers’ separate ethnicity and pursued assimilationist policies designed to eradicate Travellers’ differences. However, in the late 1980s and 1990s, the state recognized the structural disadvantage and social stigma to which Travellers are subjected, naming them as a protected group in equality legislation, as well as laws addressing incitement to hatred. Through these interventions, the state afforded Travellers rights on the basis of their collective identity as Travellers, while continuing to deny their ethnicity. After sustained campaigning, Traveller ethnicity was recognized by the prime minister of Ireland in 2017. This article explores the reasoning behind, and legal significance of, that statement of recognition in Ireland.1 We outline the evidence in support of ethnic recognition as a prelude to addressing the question of whether recognition is likely to afford the community any additional rights. We conclude that this is unlikely given the protections afforded to the group prior to ethnic recognition, though we argue that recognition may give the community a firmer basis for arguing for the activation of these preexisting rights.