On Wednesday the Taoiseach declared the Irish Travellers as a ethnic minority in Ireland. This was done after many years of refusal to do so by government after government and it begs the question why 01 March 2017 was seen as the perfect day for it because the discussion about it is going on for a long time.
And with that long delay and the repeated refusal, the next question has to be about the WHY travellers were recognised as an ethnic minority. There are just about 29,000 people in Ireland that declared themselves as travellers in the 2011 census. Some still have a nomadic lifestyle but many are now “settled travellers” (an interesting Oxymoron). They speak their own language or rather a dialect that is called De Gammon (by Irish Travellers) or Cant (by non-travellers) or Shelta (by linguists), a language that sees words that derive from Irish mixed with English.
The definition of an ethnic group requires some or all of the following features:
a shared history; a common cultural tradition; a common geographical origin; descent from common ancestors; a common language; a common religion; a distinct group within a larger community.
Looking at these 7 points, I’d say six out of seven are probably applicable (the seventh is the religion which is not different to the majority of people in Ireland). But is that enough to make a group an ethnic group and – if the group is small – to make it an ethnic minority?
Compare that to Cork people! The majority of people that live in Cork have a shared history because they have common ancestors. They definitely have a common geographical origin and have some common cultural tradition that are different from people in the rest of Ireland. They certainly have a common language, boy! …and they are a distinct group within a larger community. So the same six seem to apply to people from Cork as to Travellers. Should we now declare “People from Cork” as an ethnic minority?
Or compare it to full-blooded programmers! They have a shared (recent) history and have common cultural traditions. (Don’t laugh, programmers would call it “cultural”. ;-) ) They fall short on the common ancestors, but share as much a geographical origin as Travellers. Programmers definitely have a common language and to a degree they have a common religion (not in the traditional sense of “religion” though). They are a distinct group within a larger community and you could even say that they have largely a common dress code and appearance. So should Programmers get recognised as an ethnic minority?
Sure, I am over exaggerating and not that serious (at least with the Programmers). But shouldn’t we question any categorisation in our society? I know, this article is not political correct. The right approach would have been to celebrate the Traveller’s new categorisation and say nothing else. But are we maybe much TOO politically correct?
Please note, that I don’t have any answers, but I do have a lot of questions!