An Oireachtas committee has called on the Government to officially recognise the Traveller community as an ethnic group.

The report by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality recommended that the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice makes a statement in the Dáil confirming that the State recognises the ethnicity of the Traveller community.

It also recommended the Government writes to relevant international bodies confirming the decision.

The committee also said the Government should liaise with Traveller representative groups about any new legislation or amendments that are required. 

The report rapporteur, Sinn Féin's Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, said it is no longer tenable for the State to deny Traveller ethnicity.

The Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) has welcomed the recommendations and said it hoped the report will be prioritised by Minister Alan Shatter.

ITM Director Brigid Quilligan said: "Today's report consolidates more firmly the importance of acknowledging Travellers outstanding human, legal and cultural rights, both the critical and the symbolic.

"Recognition by the State of our unique ethnicity is at the heart of how we might become more equal."

The report has been sent to the Department of Justice.

Minister Shatter said this afternoon that the report will be taken into account as part of the ongoing deliberations on the issue.