GREEN Party councillor Malcolm Noonan has criticised his Kilkenny County Council colleagues, over what he says is an ‘unease’ surrounding issues regarding the Travelling Community.
At Monday’s meeting of the county council, Cllr Noonan proposed a motion asking the council to call on the Irish government to recognise Travellers as a distinct ethnic group. However, the cathaoirleach of the county council Paul Cuddihy said that a vote could not be taken at the meeting, as there would be financial and legal obligations arising from the passing of the motion.
Cllr Noonan has dismissed this, saying that the council is keen to avoid any real discussion of the topic, as members are uneasy about it.
“This is the second time that this has been kicked to touch,” he said.
“I think there is disquiet and unease in the council. I think what is happening is that some individuals are uncomfortable about this.”
The only other councillor to declare his support for the motion was Fianna Fail’s Andrew McGuinness.
Successive Irish governments have not recognised Travellers as a distinct ethnic group, an issue the United Nations has asked the present Government to address. Cllr Noonan says he has sought clarification from an array of different Traveller groups, all of whom fully support the Irish government granting them this status.
“If we were to adopt this we would be the first local authority in Ireland to do so,” he said.
“We should circulate this to other councils, to call on the government to recognise the ethnic status of Travellers and recognise the great injustice that has been done to them. There is widespread racist and widespread discrimination against Travellers and it is a great shame to this country.”
the Green Party councillor said that a lot of Traveller support services are being pulled, and the public were not aware of it. He said that taboo topics such as planning irregularities and abuse within the church had been tackled, and it was time to address the issue of the Travelling Community.
“I fully believe that they are a community we should take pride in as part of Irish culture,” said Cllr Noonan.
“I would ask the members to support this. I think it would be forward thinking, in view of the grave injustice done to Travellers.”