NUI Galway’s Irish Traveller Ethnicity Week fell on the 28t of February this year. The week-long event showed our culture in many ways and I couldn’t be more proud of how it went. A special thank you goes to Owen Ward, the Traveller Education Officer, for organising the events, the talks and workshops that happened during the week.
The first event in celebrating the occasion was the unveiling of the Historical Painting and Plaque in the foyer of Áras na Mac Leinn. This is a permanent painting within the university, and alongside this, we also unveiled our historic chairpersons’ plaque in honour of being the first Irish Traveller University Society in Ireland. Thank you to everyone in Minceirs Whiden Society, NUI Galway and beyond for making this happen.
On Monday the 28th the celebrations started off with the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins officially opening the series of celebrations, and during this time, the winners of the newest award called the ‘Michael McDonagh Award for Irish Traveller Ally Excellence’ were named. The winners of this brand new award were Dr Deirdre Hardiman and Dr Helen Casey. After this, the winner of the Minceir Whiden Society Honorary Life Member Award was announced. Jason Sherlock was presented with the award by the Director of Student Services, John Hannon. Also during this ceremony we had speeches from the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, President of NUI Galway Ciarán Ó hOgartaigh, the Head of the Access Programme Imelda Byrne, Traveller Education Officer Owen Wardand the Vice President of NUI Galway for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Helen Maher. After the speeches ended, renowned performer Thomas McCarthy sang a few old songs that older generation of our people would have sung.
When the ceremony ended everyone in the Minceir Whiden Society committee went outside the Quadrangle with the President of Ireland and very important guests to raise our flag. During this time our society was very proud to welcome Irish Traveller Stilt Walkers in celebration of our people. We, as a society, feel that it is extremely important that we incorporate the new ways of the young Irish Traveller people with the old ways of our culture. They were dressed in the way old Irish Traveller Women dressed in the past. Also as part of the celebrations we had beady pockets. These tell a story of the Irish Traveller Women who travelled the length and breadth of Ireland, decorating their aprons in different coloured buttons; each of these buttons would typically tell a story of a loved one. We were kindly gifted a beady pocket by Gleandor Athenry which is a voluntary organisation.
The biggest thing I saw that day was the Minceirs Misl’d in Education; Irish Traveller Living Exhibition.
From 10am to 4pm there was a Living Exhibition outside Áras Na Mac Leinn. There was a fully restored Barrel Top Wagon, a traditional tent, flat cart, a working tinsmith, a storytelling Traveller Woman and of course a campfire. We hoped that this Living History project would give groups an appreciation of Irish Traveller Culture and to help keep a vital part of our history alive.
I thought everything was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Thanks for reading!