An Intercultural Education Strategy is in preparation at national level.
4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies
There are no officially recognised cultural minority groups in Ireland. The population of 22 435 people in the Travelling community (2006 Census) has campaigned for official recognition on the basis that they fit the description of a unique ethnic group, sharing, as they do, distinctive cultural traditions. The Irish government has recently rejected the UN recommendation to grant ethnic minority status to Travellers and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency has placed Ireland in the top 10 of EU States with the highest level of discrimination in everyday life. 2011 has seen significant cuts and a withdrawal of support for traveller education.
The Travelling community are identified (both by themselves and others) as people with a shared history, culture and traditions including, historically, a nomadic way of life on the island of Ireland. Pavee Point, a non-governmental organisation committed to the promotion and realisation of Travellers' Human Rights, works regionally, nationally and internationally to ensure that Irish Travellers and their counterparts are recognised and respected, that their human rights are implemented, and that inequalities and discrimination faced by Travellers are named and addressed. They run training sessions on Traveller cultural awareness, anti-racism and traveller exclusion. As part of the Bealtaine Festival in 2012, there was a celebration of the contribution made by older Travellers to the Travelling community and wider society.
In the past decade Ireland had one of the highest net migration rates of the EU-15. The share of foreign born people living in Ireland rose from 6% in 1991 to over 14.7% in 2006 (Anecdotal evidence suggests a decline in immigration and a return to emigration in the economic downturn). There were 75 645 foreign nationals on the live register at the end of 2010. It is estimated that over 160 language groups are now represented in the population. The top 10 countries of origin for immigrants are the UK, Poland, Lithuania, Nigeria, Latvia, US, China, Germany, the Philippines and France. The Immigration and Residence Bill 2008 was published to a not uncritical reception from immigrant representative bodies. In general some progress has been made in moving Ireland towards an intercultural society with various strategies to this end in health, tourism, housing, policing and the marketplace. Opinion polls towards diversity are very positive but public opinion towards asylum seekers and travellers is less favourable. The United Nations has noted the government failure to establish clear immigration rules as well as the impact of steep funding cuts to the funding of state bodies protecting human rights: the Irish Human Rights Commission was cut by 32% and the Equality Authority by 43% while Combat Poverty and the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism were abolished.
Following on its policy for cultural diversity, the Arts Council appointed a Cultural Diversity Advisor in 2012. The Department of Education and Skills' Intercultural Education Strategy 2010-2015 sets out a range of provisions in this area. At local level a number of local authorities have produced anti-racism and diversity plans while Longford County Council, for example, has published an Intercultural Strategic Plan. As in the case in all other areas of Irish life, provision for immigrant integration has been affected by budgetary cutbacks: notably, the number of language teachers at primary and post-primary level was reduced from 2 100 to 1 500 in September 2009.