The Government has rejected Sinn Féin's Private Members' motion on Traveller rights by 58 votes to 39.
All Government deputies present in the chamber rejected the amended motion.
The sole member on the opposition benches to vote with the Government was Independent TD Mattie McGrath.
The words "shame on you" could be faintly heard after the Ceann Comhairle made the announcement.
During the debate Sinn Féin Deputy Dessie Ellis said Travellers are part of Ireland's rich culture and had every right to a home.
Deputy Sandra McLelland said there had been a failure to recognise the status of Travellers as a nomadic group and Travellers' health had suffered severely as a result of government policy.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said a Traveller child born today will face a life in which he or she will be part of the most socially disadvantaged group in Irish society.
He said the the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality recommended in April 2014 that the State recognises the ethnicity of the Traveller community.
He said the Government needed to act on this and a referendum was not needed.
Mr Adams also said there had been a number of negative calls to his party after it tabled the motion.
Minister of State Damien English said while the Government has areas of disagreement with the motion, it did not disagree with the "spirit of the motion", which called for recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group.
Mr English, who represented the Minister for Justice in the Dáil, questioned the aspect of the motion which sought an All Ireland approach to the ethnicity of Travellers.
He suggested that the Joint Committee on Justice could initiate a national dialogue in all Government departments and amongst media organisations, to "help facilitate the understanding of the Traveller community and the wider society".