Irish Travellers and anti-Traveller racism


  • Lordan Dave
  • Peadar O’Grady


After a long campaign by Traveller and other activists, the official recognition of the ethnic identity of Travellers in Ireland on March 1st 2017 was a blow against prejudice, racism and oppression in Ireland.1 It seriously undermined one of the most consistent arguments against addressing the oppression of travellers, an oppression which can be seen in the systematic discrimination in access to housing, education and employment in particular: the argument that they are not a group with an identifiable culture or ethnicity, that is, that they don’t exist. While Travellers have shared much in common with the mistreatment of the poor working class in Ireland since the foundation of the State - from the impoverishment of the countryside, the drive to emigrate or move into regional big towns and cities, to poor health, poor housing, unemployment, incarceration in Industrial schools and imprisonment -- denial of ethnicity meant a denial of oppression on the specific grounds of being a Traveller. The grounds of ancestry, language and a distinctive nomadic and occupational culture puts the question of the ethnicity of Travellers beyond any doubt; however, racism and prejudice are never based on a fair evaluation of the facts.