Thursday, March 02, 2017

Ireland – Travellers Historic Recognition

Taoiseach Enda Kenny got a rare standing ovation in the Dáil on Wednesday night as he uttered words many of those attending had been waiting more than 30 years to hear.

“I wish to now formally recognise Travellers as an ethnic group. It is a historic day for our Travellers and a proud day for Ireland. ”

Deputies rose to their feet, many lifting their applause to the public gallery above, which was full of cheering onlookers – Travellers who had come from all over the country.

There were Travellers standing outside too, on Kildare Street in the rain. About 100 Travellers and their representatives, including Barney Joyce, director of the Irish Traveller Movement, which campaigned for decades for formal recognition of ethnicity – could not get into the House.

TDs Ruth Coppinger and Bríd Smith of the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit grouping asked that proceedings be adjourned for 20 minutes to allow more of those waiting outside to get in.

‘Managing’ numbers

It was not a matter of space, said Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl, there just were not the personnel on duty to “manage” the numbers.

Ms Smith offered that she and other TDs could usher the waiting visitors into the building, but was told she was being “facile”.

“Well I think we should bend the rules for people who’ve had the rules broken on them decades in this country,” she pleaded, to no avail.

More were across the road in Buswells Hotel, gathered around televisions at the bar. They were not letting exclusion from the national parliament dampen their joy.

Their cheers were as jubilant as any welcoming the winning point at an All-Ireland final – but louder. What is rare is wonderful, and days like these for our Traveller citizens have been rare indeed.

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