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The Significance of the Declaration of Ethnic Minority Status for Irish Travellers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 December 2020

Amanda Haynes*
Affiliation:
European Centre for the Study of Hate, University of Limerick, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland
Sindy Joyce
Affiliation:
European Centre for the Study of Hate, University of Limerick, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland
Jennifer Schweppe
Affiliation:
European Centre for the Study of Hate, University of Limerick, Castletroy, Limerick, Ireland
*
*Corresponding author. Email: Amanda.Haynes@ul.ie

Abstract

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.

Type
Special Issue Article
Copyright
© Association for the Study of Nationalities 2020

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