NUI Galway webinar examines history of Irish Travellers over last 100 years

'Women and children preparing for Cahirmee Horse Fair, Buttevant, Co. Cork, 1954. Credit - National Library of Ireland.
Apr 08 2022 Posted: 11:56 IST

University plans special conference in September on Travellers and the Irish state as part of the Decade of Centenaries programme

NUI Galway is marking International Traveller and Roma Day with a webinar examining the experience of Irish Travellers since the foundation of the Irish state. 

The event is a collaboration between Traveller activists and allies and NUI Galway and is also being used a platform to launch a special conference - Irish Travellers/Mincéirs and the State 1922 – 2022: The Struggle for Equality – which is being held on September 16-17, 2022 as part of the Decade of Centenaries. 

Today, Friday April 8, is International Traveller and Roma Day which marks the first World Romani Congress was held in London on 8th of April, 1971. It was the beginning of a European movement to lobby against the inequalities faced by Roma and Travellers.  

The NUI Galway events will be launched by Senator Eileen Flynn, with participants including President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, President of NUI Galway Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, and broadcaster Vincent Browne.

President Higgins said: “It is particularly apt that the launch of this conference takes place on International Traveller and Roma Day, a day which invites us to reflect on the many challenges still facing Roma and Travellers and the strategies necessary to meet these challenges. The distinctive history, identity and tradition of Irish Travellers is woven deeply into the story and culture of Ireland and it has made a significant and positive contribution to Irish society.”

The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D. welcomed the NUI Galway events as a means to discuss the experience of Irish Travellers/Mincéirs and the Irish State from 1922-2022, the impacts of that experience, and lessons to be learned.

The conference was proposed by Traveller activist Patrick Nevin and psychologist Elaine Martin, and will be hosted in collaboration with the Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour and Class at NUI Galway and supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media as part of the Decade of Centenaries Programme 2012-2023.

A rich and diverse programme will include academic papers, Traveller narratives, discussions of Traveller activism, and artistic events.

Minister Catherine Martin said: “I am very pleased to support this important conference reflecting on the experiences of Irish Travellers/Mincéirs since the foundation of the independent Irish state.  For too long, the travelling community has been treated with disrespect and this conference presents an opportunity to have an honest and meaningful reflection.  Events such as this, grounded in original research and scholarship, have been welcomed by the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations. The ethos of the Decade of Centenaries programme is inclusive, authentic, meaningful and respectful commemoration and this provides a timely opportunity to include a community often historically overlooked in the commemorative narrative.”  

President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “The University is pleased to host this important conference, which is organised by Traveller activists and allies in conjunction with members of the staff of NUI Galway.  In showcasing research on the lived experience of Irish Travellers during the hundred years of Irish statehood, and in exploring the cultural traditions of the Traveller/Mincéir community, the conference reflects our university’s commitments to inclusion, respect, diversity and openness.  That the conference is part of the Irish government’s Decade of Centenaries programme is both appropriate and truly welcome.”  

Psychologist Elaine Martin said: “There is a blind spot in the Irish psyche about Travellers. We denigrate Irish Travellers in the same way as Irish people were othered throughout history; the shoe is merely on the other foot.”

Traveller activist Patrick Nevin said: “The project by the new Irish state from 1922 to the present, was to deny, assimilate, absorb, and to attempt to eradicate Tinker/Traveller identity. It has been an organised and concerted effort from the start.”

NUI Galway’s Traveller Education Officer, Owen Patrick Ward, stated: “This conference will highlight the many contributions made by Irish Travellers since the foundation of the Irish State; contributions, that for so long has been ignored and erased from public discourse. I want to commend all involved in this collaboration and NUI Galway for continuing to play a leadership role in this area.”


Marketing and Communications Office


Featured Stories