About Irish Travellers

Travellers are an indigenous minority who, historical sources confirm, have been part of Irish society for centuries. Travellers long shared history, cultural values, language, customs and traditions make them a self-defined group, and one which is recognisable and distinct. Their culture and way of life, of which nomadism is an important factor, distinguishes them from the sedentary (settled) population.

There are an estimated 25,000 Travellers in Ireland, making up more than 4,485 Traveller families. This constitutes approximately 0.5% of the total national population. It is estimated that an additional 15,000 Irish Travellers live in Britain, with a further 10,000 Travellers of Irish descent living in the United States of America.

Travellers, as individuals and as a group, experience a high level of prejudice and exclusion in Irish society. Many have to endure living in intolerable conditions, with approximately one third having to live without access to the basic facilities of sanitation, water and electricity. This leads to ongoing health problems among the Traveller community. A report of the Health Research Board (1987) revealed that Traveller men live, on average, 10 years less than settled men, while Traveller women live on average 12 years less than their settled peers. Discrimination and its effects are a daily feature of Travellers lives.

In 1995, the Government published the Report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community. This report presents a comprehensive examination of the situation of the Traveller community and contains significant and convincing proposals for necessary change. To date, some of the recommendations of this important report have been implemented, but much remains to be done. It is vital that, in the coming years, the various Government agencies responsible, together with the community as a whole, work to ensure the full implementation of all the Task Force Reports recommendations Travellers might then have the experience of being treated and regarded as full, equal citizens of Ireland.

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