A report on the story here.
Believe it or not, I don't actually know much about Travellers and I don't think I've ever known a Traveller personally. They feature prominently in fiction about Ireland, but I have had very little interaction with them. They've always been in the background in the my own life, insofar as they have featured at all.
I think it's fascinating that they have their own unique language, Shelta.
This announcement has come with all the usual liberal-progressive hoopla and breast-beating about racism and discrimination, and has been correspondingly greeted with grumbling and scepticism on the opposite side. (The latter hasn't really been publicly voiced, but I've certainly heard it-- not just now, but over the years.)
I'm really speaking from ignorance, but personally I am keen on the idea of Travellers being given ethnic group status. If any Travellers read this blog, I congratulate them on the recognition. I've written post after post after post on the importance of tradition, heritage and preserving difference-- of course I'm enthusiastic about this.
My father complains about the idea of a Traveller ethnicity, arguing that Irish Travellers are Irish and that should be their ethnicity. I don't really go along with this, because "ethnic group" is such an elusive term (which doesn't mean it's not significant; I think it's very significant). The Travellers are a de facto minority and I certainly think they should be acknowledged as such. The Taoiseach's term, "a people within our people", is the right one.
I mentioned all the usual belly-aching and moaning from the progressive left. My view is the same as the one I expressed in this post; I think heritage, identity and tradition should be based upon celebration, not grievance. I sometimes think that, for the progressive left, the significance of any group is that they are "discriminated against". (With the exception of scum-of-the-earth white heterosexual males, who are all privileged and who all lie on mattresses all day, clicking their fingers for servant-girls to bring them smoked salmon sandwiches. Sounds great...)
I should add that I'm by no means denying that Travellers have suffered discrimination. I know they have. But I'm tired of discrimination being the defining feature of every interest group, ethnic group and other group. I'm tired of diversity being used simply as a stick to beat "society" with.
It's also interesting that the left are celebrating an official announcement of ethnicity. But don't they believe ethnicity is complex, multi-stranded, fluid, "negotiated", etc.? What room is there for official labelling in that case?
It's the same contradiction you get with the left's attitude to trangenderism. On the one hand, we're told that gender roles are oppressive and socially constructed; on the other hand, we're told that we are oppressors if we don't recognise the "true" gender identity of a transexual. That makes no sense at all.
But, on the whole, I entirely approve of this step.