Young Travellers celebrate their achievements in style

Director of Irish Traveller Movement says young Travellers a source of pride to older generation

It has been a remarkable year by any standards for the Travelling community.

Olympic silver medallist John Joe Nevin and The Voice of Ireland runner-up Kelly McDonagh Mongan were the most high-profile members of their community at the annual Traveller Pride awards yesterday.

Though the overall winners were two bastions of traditional Traveller life, Tom McDonnell and James Collins, who are trying to keep the tradition of tinsmithing alive, the day belonged to the younger generation.

Source of pride
Brigid Quilligan, the director of the Irish Traveller Movement, said the achievement of young Travellers was a source of pride to the older generation.

“Everything we do we do for you. You are an example in our eyes. We want you to have the kind of lives that we can only dream about,” she told the several hundred guests at the awards.

Appropriately for Ms McDonagh Mongan (19), the venue was the Rotunda Hospital. She gave birth just five days ago to her first child, Bernie, who was present at the awards and slept through most of the din.

Kelly received an award for music. She spoke of being on an adrenaline rush since giving birth in Cork University Maternity Hospital on Sunday.

Guest of honour
Nevin was guest of honour and spoke of his pride in being a Traveller. He was joined by Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor, who said it was an "absolute privilege" to be present and Irish boxing would not be the same without the Travelling community.

An Irish soccer international as well, she presented the sports award to Savanna McCarthy from Listowel, Co Kerry, the captain of the All-Ireland under-17 women's soccer team.

The only discordant note in an otherwise joyous day was struck by stand-up comedian and NUI Galway student Martin "Beanz" Ward from Tuam, who presented the education award to Christy Moorehouse from Bray, Co Wicklow, who qualified as an addiction therapist. He said Travellers were "born into a society where we are hated from the first step to the last" and he urged Travellers to fight discrimination through education.