From Dublin, Cork , Galway, Mayo and London Traveller winners were recognised for their achievements and contributions in Education, Arts / Culture, Music, Enterprise, Youth, Sport, Intersectionality and Community at the Traveller Pride Awards today.
Laura Angela Collins received the first award in the scheme for ‘Intersectionality’ for her campaign towards institutional redress related to her grandmother’s burial in a mass grave with 72 other women, residents of St Vincent’s Magdalene laundry, Cork.
On accepting the award, she said “I’m more than honoured to be accepting the Traveller Pride award in my category, I personally feel this is for all the women in my family who walked before me, who were targeted and told they couldn’t be proud of who they were. When we should all be allowed to be.”
Category: Community – Minnie Connors – Wexford
Minnie Connors was instrumental in bringing together the first Traveller–led group in Wexford. Minnie lost her younger sister Alice to suicide in July 2018, the ninth suicide in her family.
In the depths of her despair she said “Enough is enough.” She had realised that mental health facilities were not available for her sister or anyone in Wexford for that matter since they only operate 9-5 Mon- Fri. Initially known as The Wexford Traveller Mental Health Group, it has aspired to broadening its scope and is now known as Wexford Traveller Development Group. Its primary focus is the mental health of Travellers.
Minnie started by getting together a group of Traveller women who had had similar experiences. She had never in her life belonged to any women’s group or Traveller group. However, her charismatic character and articulate expression of her needs which are Traveller needs inspired the foundation of the group.
She said “This award means that my sister Alice didn’t die for nothing. It has allowed me to fight for people to fight for their mental health. I am grateful to be recognised for the work that I have done in Wexford and this award is also a recognition of the work done by the group, as we are stronger together “
Category: Enterprise and Employment – Oein DeBhairduin – Galway
Oein was nominated in a number of categories through this scheme, with serous credentials in many fields. In 2018/2019 Oein he was appointed as the first ever Traveller to work in the Oireachtas taking on a position within Senator Colette Kelleher’s office.
An informal ambassador for his community, he cooperated cross parties and groups, with an expert view on Travellers and in the broad context of his expertise. On picking us his award he said “I am deeply honoured to be the recipient of this award, especially as it comes from my peers and community who know well the challenges, both direct and subtle Travellers experience on multiple levels within our daily lives.
“Our lives are politicised and therefore it has been a privilege working in the Oireachtas, to be more a part of the conversation rather than recipient of it. He continued ““In the week of Local and European elections where no Traveller was elected I think it is more poignant and important that we not only recognise attempts to close the gaps in Traveller representation but also recognise the real living potential inherent in respectful and actual inclusion.”
Category: Sport – Thomas O’Donnell – Dublin
Thomas McDonnell is 16 years old and an exceptional athlete who has proudly represented his club and community at local, regional, national and international boxing events. In this year alone Thomas has won both the Dublin’s and the All Ireland Junior boxing titles for the fourth year in a row. He will also represent the Irish team at EUBC Junior European Boxing Championships – May 22/June 2, 2019 (Galati, Romania).
His goal is to represent his community and his country at Olympic level. He said; “I am proud to be representing my club, my country and the Travelling Community at these awards”.
Category: Education – Kathleen Lawrence– Dublin
Kathleen is a graduate of Maynooth University (National University of Ireland), holding a BCL (Bachelor of Civil Law) in Law and Sociology and is undertaking an Masters in Human Rights at University College Dublin. She also has a Higher Certificate in Community Work in a Changing Ireland from Maynooth University and received their Inspirational Student and Alumni Award in recognition of her diligence and commitment to academia.
In 2017 she earned a place on the Washington Ireland Program the first Traveller to do so. She said “Returning to education opened up a whole new world for me. I have managed to hold on to my Traveller roots while also learning new skills and very grateful for the entire experience both good and bad. It meant a lot to me to just be nominated for a Traveller Pride Award in recognition of my small impact in the area of education and more grateful to win the award as I know that there can be some tough competition in the categories.”
Category: Intersectionality – Laura Angela Collins-London
Laura Angela Collins received the first award in the scheme for Intersectionality she is the chair of “Justice for all Women & Children Group. Her mother was a survivor of an industrial school St Vincent’s Magdalene Cork laundry. Her mother was resident for 16 years while her grandmother Angelina was confined for 27 years and is buried in a mass grave with 72 other women.
She is awarded for her campaign for towards institutional redress On accepting the award she said “I’m more than honoured to be accepting the Traveller Pride award in my category, I personally feel this is for all the women in my family who walked before me, who were targeted and told they couldn’t be proud of who they were. When we should all be allowed to be.”
Category: Youth – Nikita Maughan – Mayo
Nikita is 16 years old and has made a positive contribution to her community setting up a Travellers girls’ group, the first in Ballinrobe. She encourages the girls’ self-belief and organizes different activities such as personal / social development activities. She empowers young women, helping increase their self-esteem and confidence.
She is dedicated to her role attending every Wednesday and encourages participation among Traveller girls. Picking up her award she said “It’s a very proud moment to be chosen among others for this award. I’m glad all my hard work has been recognised by The Traveller Pride award. It’s an honour and a great achievement for me as it’s the only girl group that has been set up.
Category: Arts / Culture – Charleville Women’s Group – Cork
Charleville Traveller Women’s Group has been running for nearly 20 years. As a way of dealing with the frustrations homelessness amongst family members and without the benefit of drama facilitators, this group successfully wrote, directed and performed a play called No Fixed Abode. Over a series of small vignettes exploring the barriers for Travellers seeking accommodation, the play was performed for the local community and school children and to a mixed audience in The Triskel Arts Centre, Cork.
The play has inspired others to engage in the issue of Traveller accommodation and a motivator in campaigning locally, helping build allies. Picking up the Award Anita Toner, Theresa Toner and Margaret Meehan said;“Ecstatic is an understatement for how we are feeling to have won the Traveller Award for our play, No Fixed Abode. This gives us a sense of achievement and recognition, and knowing that our hard work has paid off is very important to us.”
Main photo above – Anita Toner, Theresa Toner pick up their award