NUI Galway launches events to mark Irish Traveller Ethnicity Day

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins with Michael McDonagh wife Ellen and the McDonagh Family. Photo – Aengus McMahon.
Feb 28 2022 Posted: 09:23 GMT

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins opens week-long celebrations

NUI Galway has launched a series of events to mark Irish Traveller Ethnicity Day, tomorrow Tuesday 1 March.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins led the opening of the week-long celebrations with a keynote address, exploring rights and other issues for the Traveller community.

President Higgins said: “I am delighted to be opening today’s Traveller Ethnicity Day Celebrations hosted again this year by the National University of Ireland Galway.

“The series of events planned during the week is so impressive and I commend the organisers for developing the programme.

“Today is a day to celebrate the rich and ancient history of Ireland’s Traveller community who constitute Ireland’s only indigenous minority. Today is a day to take stock on how far we have come as a society that recognises and values the Traveller traditions and culture, but it is also a day to consider the road still ahead to full participation and equality.”

Irish Traveller Ethnicity Day on March 1 marks the anniversary of when the Irish Government formally recognised Irish Travellers as a distinct ethnic group and celebrates Irish Travellers culture and heritage including music, craft traditions and language. 

President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “Our university community has defined respect and openness as two of our core values, and through collective effort across many different initiatives, we are meeting the challenge of making our community a more equal, inclusive and diverse place in which to work and study. We are better for having all the talents in society here.

“We will continue our determined work to welcome, support and vindicate the Traveller community as a part a valuable and valued part of the life of our university. I am delighted that our Traveller ethnicity festival will celebrate this sense of openness and highlight many more opportunities for further positive impact and inclusion.”

Irish Traveller Ethnicity Day marks the anniversary of formal recognition by the Irish Government of Irish Travellers as a distinct ethnic group and the day celebrates Irish Traveller culture and heritage including music, craft traditions and language.

NUI Galway’s now annual celebrations are organised by the University’s Mincéirs Misl’d in Education (MMIE) project. The MMIE project is about empowering Irish Travellers to transition and build a sense of belonging in higher education.

Mincéirs Misl’d in Education brings together partners in NUI Galway Access Centre, Galway Traveller Movement, Involve CLG, Mayo Sligo Traveller Support Group, Sligo Traveller Support Group, Western Traveller Intercultural Development Centre, Túsla, the  Higher Education Authority and student representatives to work together to remove barriers to higher education. 

The launch included the presentation of the Michael McDonagh Award for Traveller Ally Excellence, named in honour of the Irish Traveller and rights campaigner. The awardees were NUI Galway lecturers Dr Deirdre Hardiman and Dr Helen Casey. 

NUI Galway graduate Jason Sherlock was also honoured with lifetime membership of the Mincéirs Whiden Society. 

The week-long events include panel discussions on the need for Irish Traveller Allies; the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill 2018; Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller LGBT+ people’s experience within their communities; and the criminalisation of nomadism from a UK and Irish perspective. 

Workshops and cultural exhibitions will also offer a variety of opportunities for staff, students and the public to discover more about Irish Traveller culture and history. 

Some of the highlights include the award-winning play Magpies on the Pylon by Michael Collins; photographs from the well-known Crown exhibition showing Irish Traveller women and their hair; and the Irish Traveller Living Exhibition which was hosted on campus today outside Áras na Mac Léinn and includes a fully restored Barrel Top Wagon.

For further information and links to register for events at 


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