Photo by Bryan Meade.

Missie Collins made a great call for better education, accommodation and health for Irish Travellers in her address to His Holiness, Pope Francis during the Festival of Families at Croke Park this week end.

Photo by Mawell Photography

 Missie was very clear in claiming a place for the ‘whole extended family’ of the Traveller community to be included, respected and free from discrimination.

Her words roused the crowd as they clapped for the recognition of Traveller ethnicity and for the proud way Missie spoke of being an Irish Traveller.

“Last year we were recognised and we got our ethnicity after 30 years.  It’s a step and we have a long way to go yet,” she said. “We need better education, better accommodation, better health and for discrimination to go.”

Missie has campaigned on health issues for Travellers for over 20 years as part of Pavee Point’s Primary Health Care for Travellers Project.

It was while working on a drama to celebrate the work of their Health Project that Bridgie Collins was spotted by Tryone Productions for her wonderful stage presence and singing voice.

Despite never having had the opportunity to learn Irish and not knowing how to read or write, Bridgie, also a Primary Health Care Worker,  learned off part of the 17th century Irish poem ‘Mná na hEireann’  – put to music by Seán O Riada.

Bridgie’s hard work and determination enabled Traveller women to take their place on the world stage among women who have contributed so much to the Irish tradition of music and singing – Eimear Quinn, Lucia Evans and Moya Brennan.

And young Traveller woman, Alison Nevin, will have been the talk of her class this week as she started secondary school as the girl who got to ask  Pope Francis for a selfie.  See event on RTE Player – https://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/pope-francis-in-ireland-30006394/10926245/