President Michael D. Higgins gave an inspiring speech at Pavee Point today (18th November) at our 30th Anniversary celebration. The President spoke with emotion about the discrimination and racism that Travellers experience and recalled when Travellers were segregated in school classrooms and school yards.
He said the recent Carrickmines fire tragedy raised important issues for all of Irish society and there was an urgent need for a far-reaching and fundamental reappraisal of the position of Travellers in Irish society. He said this would require a new stance from every side.
He praised Pavee Point for its work over the last 30 years saying it has been instrumental in changing the lives of many members of the Traveller community and talked about the positive outcomes of Traveller activism in the last 30 years including the emergence of new Traveller community workers and leaders.
He recalled the work Pavee Point’s first Director the late John O’ Connell had made and the huge contribution some of the other founder members – John’s wife Stasia Crickley and Ronnie Fay – continue to make, along with Martin Collins who attended Pavee Point’s first Traveller Development Programme.
The President also praised the ‘enormous contribution’ Travellers have made and continue to make to Irish life and mentioned Travellers’ role in traditional music and Traveller sporting achievements in the world of boxing.
The President met many of the staff and trainees at Pavee Point as well as people who attended for the 30th celebration and encouraged people to continue the work and to promote a human right’s approach in relation to Travellers.
Martin Collins, Pavee Point spoke of his own time with the organisation and how it had played such a big part of his life. He said he would continue to play a role, whatever that might be and would help ensure that Pavee Point remained relevant to Travellers’ lives in the future.
Ronnie Fay of Pavee Point presented the President with our anniversary book of photographs ’30 Years of Pavee Point’ featuring photos by Derek Speirs documenting many of the key moments in Pavee Point history and outlining the story of the development of the organisation.
Gabi Muntean spoke of Pavee Point’s role in relation to the Roma community in Ireland and of the decision in 2012 to mainstream Roma into the organisation bringing about its name change to Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre.
Primary Health Care Worker Missie Collins spoke of her own involvement with the organisation and the establishment of the highly successful Primary Health Care Projects and Travellers involvement in developing the Traveller Health Strategy and the All Ireland Traveller Health Study.
Stasia Crickley, Chairperson of Pavee Point praised the hard work and determination that had contributed to the success of Pavee Point.
Everyone enjoyed the music played by Mickey Dunne and his daughter Bríd who travelled from Limerick for the event. Roma musicians also serenaded the crowd.
People were asked to add their memories of Pavee Point to the memory tree which was soon swinging with thoughts of the past and good wishes for the future. We would like to thank everyone for coming to this event and making it a true celebration.