Boy (15) who met royals among winners at Traveller Pride awards

Seven awards honour Travellers’ contributions to community and to Ireland

Ian McDonagh at Traveller Pride awards. Photograph: Tommy Clancy

Ian McDonagh at Traveller Pride awards. Photograph: Tommy Clancy


A 15-year-old student from Galway, who was the first Traveller to participate in or win at the BT Young Scientist’s competition, was among seven people to be honoured at the Traveller Pride Awards on Thursday.

Ian McDonagh was honoured for his achievements in education. He said he hoped to be a role model for his younger sister and for other young Travellers.

“Only 1 per cent of us go on to third-level education; I think there’s more, but they are hiding their identity,” he said. He intends to study law and politics before applying to join An Garda Síochána.

“There’s nurses, doctors, barristers and solicitors in the Travelling community.” He attributed his determination to his parents, who value education and said it was a key to opening doors.

“The way I look at education is, there is no point in going to war without weapons,” he said. He will begin his Junior Cert exams at Merlin College next week.

Having had success in 2016, with his project “A Scientific Investigation of the Cures and Folkways of the Irish Traveller Community”, he has already begun preparations for next year’s Young Scientist’s competition, which will be his third time to enter. The new project looks at the use of a wristband to detect the onset of an epileptic seizures.

His efforts have not been confined to education. He has also campaigned for speed ramps in his local area and against illegal dumping. He attended Áras an Uachtaráin in May and met Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

“You’d never think they were royals at all,” he said. “I talked about horses with Camilla, because she is interested in Polo, and Prince Charles was interested in the cures.”

Other winners

The Traveller Pride awards celebrate the achievements and contributions Travellers make to their own community and to Irish society.

In sport, the prize went to Patrick Mongan from Galway, who will represent Ireland in the European boxing Championships.

The enterprise award went to Michael Power from Athlone, the first Traveller editor of an Irish magazine, the Travellers’ Voice.

Lucht Siúil Óga, a group of 10 youth leaders based in Dundalk, won the youth category for setting up a weekly youth club for Travellers.

Hughie Maughan from Ballymun, Dublin, won in arts and culture. He is well-known for his appearances on reality television programmes Dancing with the Stars and Big Brother.

The community award went to Thomas Maughan from Cavan, for his men’s shed project providing a social group for men. For music the award went to Lizzy Connors from Carlow, the first Traveller to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York.

This year’s event was held in the Rotunda’s Pillar Room and hosted by Brenda Donohue. Guests included Minister of State for Equality David Stanton, world champion boxer Andy Lee, singer Eleanor McEvoy, entrepreneur Gavin Duffy, activist Panti Bliss and broadcaster Jonathan McCrea.

* This article was amended on June 1st