Irish Travelers
   Estimated population: 45,000 in the Irish Republic, 22,000 in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, 10,000 in the United States. The origins of the Travelers are unknown. Some writers would trace the Irish Travelers back in history to as early as 2000 b.c. when newly arrived metalworkers traveled around Ireland with their families. These families would then have been joined by itinerant musicians and later by some Druid priests as Christianity gained in popularity, forming the core of the Traveler population. Others may have joined them when tenants were much later dispossessed of their lands. By 1834 the traveling community was clearly distinguished from other poor who wandered the land in the report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws in that year.
   Migration of Irish Travelers to England probably started soon after invaders from Britain landed in the country in 1172. It may be more than a coincidence that the first appearance of "tinker" as a trade or surname in Britain was nine years later. In 1214 a law was passed for the expulsion of Irish "beggars" from England, and in 1413 all Irish (with a very few exceptions) were to be expelled.
   Several hundred Irish Travelers immigrated to mainland Britain from 1880 onward. There are now well over 1,000 Irish Traveler families living in caravans in Great Britain, including children who were born in that country. In spite of some intermarriage with the English Romanies, they form a separate ethnic group, partly because of their strong Catholicism. It is estimated that there are also 10,000 people of Irish Traveler descent in the United States, whose ancestors left Ireland even before the 19th-century famine.
   The Travelers used to speak Irish with two special vocabularies called Cant and Gammon by their speakers and Shelta by scholars. By the 20th century the vast majority spoke English, still with a special vocabulary.
   Irish Travelers were recognized as an ethnic group in England and Wales in 2000 as a result of a court case concerned with discrimination (CRE v. Allied Domecq). They had already been acknowledged in Northern Ireland in 1997 in the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order. The Irish Republic protects Travelers against discrimination in section 2 of the Equal Status Act of 2000, though without accepting them as an ethnic group.
   A strong musical tradition thrives among the Travelers. There are many of their musicians listed in this work, while Michael Collins has achieved fame as an actor.
   See also Irish Travellers Movement; Irish Travellers Movement Britain.

Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . .

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