Irish Traveller people are an indigenous ethnic group with their own language, culture and history. They are specifically referred to in legislation as a group who must not be treated in a less favourable way than any other person. Travellers who are refused services are afforded the protection of the Equal Status Act 2000/ 2004. There are approximately 24,000 members of the Travelling community in the Republic of Ireland.
The Traveller language is referred to by different names; the most common names used by Travellers for their language are Cant and Gamman. The word Shelta has been established academically and also refers to the language.The language is still very much in use in the Community today.
The majority of Travellers in the Republic of Ireland are Roman Catholic. Irish Travellers place a special emphasis on pilgrimages and celebration of the sacraments such as communion, confirmation, christenings and weddings. These are exceptionally important family events.
Until the 1950's / 60's Travellers were always nomadic, moving around the Republic of Ireland in extended family groups. Their economy was based on a range of activities including tin smithing (where the name tinker came from), seasonal farm labour, horse dealing and door to-door sales of small domestic wares. Several social changes have impacted upon this way of life and have limited travellers' ability to move around as much as they used to because of the following reasons:
o The decrease in the rural population
o Increased Farm Mechanisation
o Mass production of plastic goods
o Improved rural transportTravellers have consequently lost traditional occupations and have been forced to settle in urban communities. Living conditions on sites are basic and lack many of the facilities often taken for granted. Travellers often live on the side of the road with no water, electricity, toilets or refuse collection. The term "traveller" is the preferred term of reference for this group; other terminology is considered offensive.