Travelers (also known as Tinkers in Ireland)

There are some 25,000 nomadic people in Ireland who regard themselves as a distinct ethnic group called "travelers," roughly analogous to the Roma of continental Europe. While some may be descended from tenant farmers driven from the land by high rents, historians speculate that many may be descendants of indigenous populations that refused to assimilate into the conquering Indo-Europeans. While the term "Travelers" mainly refers to groups in Ireland, the ethnic group and culture also includes the Quinquis in Spain, Polari and Shelta in Britain, and Reisende in Norway. The Jenisch, or Yenish, are known in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The "traveling" community has its own history, culture, and language. The travelers' emphasis on self-employment and the extended family distinguish them from the rest of Irish society. In 1991 a European Parliament committee reported that in Ireland, "the single most discriminated against ethnic group is the 'traveling people.'"

Travelers are regularly denied access to premises, goods, facilities, and services; many restaurants and pubs, for example, have a policy of not serving them. Despite national school rules that provide that no child may be refused admission on account of social position, travelers frequently experience difficulties in enrolling their children in school. Sometimes they are segregated into all-traveler classes. Of an estimated 4,000 traveler families, about 1,000 live on roadsides or on temporary sites without toilets, electricity, or washing facilities.

Human rights groups claim that the travelers experience marginalization, educational discrimination, and police and societal harassment greater than that of the settled population. U.N. committees on both the Rights of the Child and the Elimination of Racial Discrimination have expressed similar concerns.

There is an Irish film about the Travelers called Into the West


U.S. Department of State
Ireland Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.

Jewish News of Greater Phoenix
Does obscure language have Jewish connection? June 30, 2000/27 Sivan 5760, Vol. 52, No.43