In March 2017 Irish Travellers were granted formal recognition as an ethnic minority.
Enda Kenny made the announcement in parliament and was greeted with a standing ovation.
Mr Kenny described state recognition as a “historic day for Travellers and a proud day – a day of maturity – for Ireland”.
There was a large crowd outside the Dáil to witness the decision.
Mr Kenny said the statement of recognition would help ensure the Irish Traveller community have a “better future with less negativity”.
President Higgins also welcomed the move. He said: “I have no doubt that today’s clarification will be of assistance in interpreting legislation in relation to Travellers’ rights, and ensuring respect for Travellers’ distinct identity within the fabric of Irish society.”
He went on to congratulate the organisation of the Travellers in their campaign.
After Mr Kenny made the announcement, he said: “The Traveller community has for many years campaigned to have their unique heritage, culture and identify formally recognised by the Irish State.
“Our Traveller community is an integral part of our society for over a millennium, with their own distinct identity – a people within our people.
He added that the government recognised “the inequalities and the discrimination the Traveller community faces and has faced” and said there are “a range of special programmes and interventions to help deal with this”.
It is estimated there are about 30,000 people living in Ireland who are part of the Travelling community, roughly 0.6% of the total population.
A recent report found that Irish Travellers DNA is as far away from Irish as the Spanish.
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