Date Published: 31-May-2011
As a great spokesman for his community, Francie Barrett was the perfect choice for Blood of the Travellers, a documentary in which he seeks to uncover where Travellers originated.
He teamed up with the film maker Liam McGrath who made Southpaw, the documentary on his journey to Olympic stardom in 1996 when he carried the Irish flag as a 19-years-old boxer and became the first Traveller to compete in the Olympics for Ireland.
The documentary, screened over the last two Sunday nights, is unashamedly biased towards Travellers as it captures Francie’s journey around the country gathering 40 samples from Travellers to undergo DNA testing.
This sympathetic portrait of Travellers serves as an antidote to the more sensational documentaries about Travellers, such My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which examines practices of Travellers in the UK such as “grabbing” where young men literally grab a random female for a snog.
The film focused on some of Ireland’s best known Travellers – former Tuam mayor Tom Ward; actor Michael Collins, who played Blackie Connors in Glenroe; and of course Francie.
The scientists eventually ruled out the belief that Travellers were descended from the Romany gypsies as they carry a unique DNA signature that points to deep roots in ancient Ireland.
They also found they had not originated at the time of the Famine – they could not have set up such a different DNA to the settled Irish in just five generations – and also dispelled the notion they were evicted by Cromwell and were forced onto life on the road.
The most likely hypothesis put forward is they arrived well before the time of Cromwell. Travellers were genetically isolated from the rest of the Irish population for between 1,000 and 2,000 years according to Dr Wilson.
The reason for that diversification must be cultural, he believes.
The findings may prove valuable to the Travelling community in their quest to be recognised as a distinct cultural group and could be fuel for those opposed to the criminal trespass legislation which makes it illegal for Travellers to set up camp anywhere other than a designated halting site.
For the rest of us, the programme touched on some of the thorny issues which make relations between the settled and the Travellers difficult.
According to some of the older Travellers who featured, there was “no feuding, no fighting and no violence” between families two generations ago. Francie’s great aunt Christina McDonagh recalls that farmers had great respect for Travellers and would allow them to set up camp in their fields. In those days Travellers were needed them for seasonal work.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.
Appeal for information following Portumna crash
Date Published: 08-May-2013
Gardai are appealing for witnesses following a single vehicle crash at the Portumna bridge this morning.
The road from Nenagh to Loughrea reopened shortly after 11 this morning following the completion of a technical exam.
Four men were travelling in a van when they hit the Portumna bridge around 6:30 this morning.
Gardaí, ambulance and two units of Portumna fire services rushed to the scene, and one of the men was taken to Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe.
He is being treated for head injuries, which have been described by Gardaí as serious.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Portumna Garda station on 09-097-42060
President Higgins among GMIT’s first ever honorary fellowships
Date Published: 10-May-2013
GMIT is to honour seven outstanding individuals including President Michael D Higgins with Honorary Fellowships at a special ceremony later this month.
It’s the first time in the 40 year history of the Institute the Governing Body of GMIT has decided to award honorary fellowships.
The GMIT Honorary Fellowships will be conferred at the g Hotel in the city this day two weeks Friday 24 May at 2.30pm in front of 200 invited guests.
Galway commuters hold their breath as LRC intervenes in bus strike
Date Published: 13-May-2013
Galway commuters are holding their breath as there has been a potential breakthrough in the Bus Eireann dispute, as both sides have agreed to talks at the Labour Relations Commission.
The LRC intervened this afternoon, on day two of strike action that has seen 95 per cent of bus services disrupted across the country.
The LRC’s Director of Conciliation Services, Kevin Foley, says the National Bus and Rail Union and the company have agreed to meet for mediated talks at 8 this evening.