I was privileged to speak at the Irish Traveller Movement 2012 AGM. Travellers have campaigned for recognition as an ethnic group for years and the state’s refusal in 2003 to recognise them as such after years of government attempts to settle and assimilate Travellers was a major setback, because it deprives them of a coherent platform from which to conduct an antiracism campaign.
My argument is that although there is plenty of individual racism against Travellers, from local councils to local residents who do not want Travellers to be accommodated near them, the chief offender is the state. In attempting to settle Travellers, in not providing sufficient halting sites, in prohibiting camping on public or private grounds, in not supporting Travellers in seeking second and third level education, and in denying Traveller ethnicity, the Irish state racialises Travellers as a group apart. Read more