Dr. Rosaleen McDonagh Receives First-Ever Rowan Award

On Thursday 29th February 2024, Dr. Rosaleen McDonagh was honoured as the first-ever recipient of the Rowan Award, presented by The Rowan Trust, an independent foundation fighting for social justice with marginalised communities. The ceremony took place at Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, where Rosaleen has had a long association. Rosaleen has been associated with Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre for well over 30 years and has made an invaluable contribution to the development and work of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, in particular, our Violence against Women Programme.

(Pictured above, Dr. Rosaleen McDonagh with Michael Barron (Executive Director of Rowan Trust).

The Rowan Award ‘recognizes individuals who act as catalysts for change, supporting marginalized groups and contributing to the advancement of society as a whole’ and provides the recipient the support to allow them to continue their work throughout the year. The award itself is made up of 2 monetary amounts – the first an award of €30,000 for the recipients work and development, and the second a grant of €15,000 to be donated to a social justice cause, which will be chosen by the recipient. This grant allows the recipient to essentially ‘pay it forward’ by nominating an individual, organisation of a collective that would benefit from it to allow them to continue their work in their community.

Dr. Rosaleen McDonagh’s work was recognised by Martin Collins, Co-Director of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre in his opening speech.

‘A common theme in Rosaleen’s work is human rights and equality – challenging sexism, ablism and racism – which emanates from both in our community and from wider society… Rosaleen has over the years demonstrated an unwavering commitment for social justice, human rights and equality – not just for Traveller and Roma in Ireland, but indeed for many other marginalised and oppressed groups in Ireland and further afield.’

The Rowan Trust partners initially nominated eight leaders, where Dr Rosaleen McDonagh stood out – Executive Director of The Rowan Trust, Dr Michael Barron said:

“Dr McDonagh has made Ireland immeasurably better through her art and activism over the past four decades. To us at The Rowan Trust, Rosaleen embodies the kind of society we aspire to – one where tremendous artist and social justice advocates from communities on the margins share their vision fearlessly and where communities are supported to work towards a radically equal world. It has been a joy to know Dr McDonagh for many years and an honour to take this time to work together. We believe deeply in social justice for all people, across all communities. At this moment in time when division is being sowed in an increasingly violent world, we stand with Rosaleen and all our communities to show that solidarity and belonging – the essence of what Rosaleen stands for – is the future we can all achieve.

Working for social justice is hard long terms works that requires long term dedication, free and creative thinking and a deep understanding of our shared experiences. For us this is what The Rowan Award is about and we are delighted to partner with Dr McDonagh in its inauguration’

As the successful nominee, Rosaleen will receive support from The Rowan Trust and has been celebrated with an exclusive event in her honour. Speaking on the award, Dr. McDonagh said:

“It’s a great honour to receive the inaugural award from The Rowan Trust. With enormous pride and solidarity that this moment is shared with the Roma community, LGBTQ+ people, transgender people, the disability community, the black & migrant community and people who are experiencing hatred & violence in Ireland & around the world. 

The Rowan Trust is driven by a deep commitment to social justice and human rights. You can see this through its team, who have themselves dedicated their lives to this work, and through the organisations they support. Because the Rowan Trust understands oppression and what it takes to fight it, this award means all the more to me. It’s thoughtful and meaningful and The Rowan Award will support my work in extraordinary ways.

My journey into human rights and equality work, was with a particular focus on racism & gender. The symbolism of having the award ceremony in Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre is my way of honouring my home, my peers, my friends, who have carried me in this struggle.  In accepting this award, the presence of my mentor Ronnie Fay will be felt. She believed diversity is the scaffolding of equality.  Ronnie raised my consciousness around Traveller, feminism and insisted on putting “the other woman first”. Also my colleague Martin Collins who inculcated me into the politics and ethics of antiracist / social justice work.   Lastly my family who have poured endless quantities of love and generosity in my life”.

The Rowan Trust is an organization that dedicates its time and work to promoting social justice and striving for a just society. The trust also aims to recognise and support leaders who are working towards a world that is more inclusive and equitable and hope to achieve that aim through initiatives such as The Rowan Award.

Photos by © Tommy Clancy Photography; All rights reserved.