Travellers could be designated as an ethnic minority, the Irish government yesterday told the United Nation Human Rights Council.
The Republic's justice minister Alan Shatter told the UN in Geneva that "serious consideration" was being given to the full legal recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority group.
This would give them stronger legal rights in the areas of health, education, housing, culture and language.
There are 23,000 Travellers in Ireland. However, successive governments have refused to identify them as an ethnic minority, unlike in the UK.
Mr Shatter also confirmed to the Geneva hearing that the children's rights referendum will be held early next year and an expert group to advise the Irish government on abortion in the wake of last year's European Court of Human Rights ruling -- known as the A, B & C judgment -- will be set up within weeks.
Mr Shatter was before the UN Human Rights Council as part of a process which allows the UN's 192-member states to examine one another's record of compliance with UN treaties.