Transformative change has taken place in the last 30 years to enable this week’s celebration of the recognition of  Traveller ethnicity at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, said Martin Collins at yesterday’s ethnicity event. “Have pride in how far we have come, have faith in how far we can go,” he urged the hundreds who visited.

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina visited the event and spent time chatting to people and seeing the work on display.

Mr Higgins said he noticed a “new confidence” among Travellers and was quoted in The Irish Times saying:

“Looking at the young people you are struck by how the ethnicity recognition has encouraged a confidence, that there is really nothing that Travellers can’t do if the obstacles are removed.”

Brenda O Donohue hosts a catch up with past Traveller Pride Award Winners.

“I have to say, as President of Ireland, one of the things that runs through my mind regularly is all the misunderstandings that were unnecessary, the failures to actually deliver proper facilities for Travellers when the money was made available by the State,” he added.

Visitors from Donegal with Sabina Higgins.

He also encouraged the Government to re-establish supports for Travellers to remain in formal education up until the Leaving Cert.

The day-long event showcased examples of Traveller craft from the past as well as highlighting the current talent in the world of music, drama and storytelling.  Fishamble Theatre gave a reading of Rosaleen McDonagh’s play ‘Running out of Road’ and actor and writer Michael Collins performed his work ‘It’s a Cultural Thing’.

Running Out of Road by Rosaleen McDonagh

Selena O’ Leary and Paddy Keenan gave fine performances in the Baroque Chapel and Frances Black got the crowd going with her ‘love’ song.

Paddy Keenan.

Selena O Leary singing in the Baroque Chapel.

The National Museum of Ireland showed fine examples of tinsmithing while the National Folklore Collection University College Dublin showcased Travellers in manuscript, photographs and social history documents.  The Irish Film Institute showed a film featuring Travellers in its archive collection and the National Library of Ireland showed examples from its National Photographic Archive.

Other photo exhibitions included Labre Park, A history documented in photographs, Ireland’s Minority ‘Is Anyone Listening?’ and Photography from  Cork Heritage Museum facilitated by Cork Women’s Network.

Exhibits of tinsmithing work from the National Museum of Ireland

Lamp made by a Traveller tinsmith from the National Museum of Ireland.

Cork Traveller Womens Network with photos from Cork Heritage Museum.

Beautiful examples of banners, quilts and beady pockets were also on view.  And this colourful display was complemented with  flower making demonstrations.   There was also a display of traditional cures.

Maureen Ward with a collection of traditional beady pockets.

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina chat about paper flowermaking with from left, Aoife Malliano, Biddy Collins, Sheila Reilly and Bridgie Collins.

Family history was of big interest to many who attended who got to get involved in researching their family background and seeing some great examples of family geneaologies. Workshops on geneaology were given by Sandra Collins from the National Library and David Joyce while Gianpiero Cavalleri, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland gave a talk on  ‘Population Genetics and Genomics of the Irish Travellers’.

The Quad, Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

The links between past and present were embodied in the Living History Project which occupied the Quad at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and gave people a chance to get great photos with the traditional barrel-topped wagon.  James Collins, one of the few tinsmiths still practicing his craft, was busy in the Quad.

James Collins, tinsmith at workin the quad Royal Hospital Kilmainham.