Artist's Statement

Bob Newman

Irish Travellers are historically nomadic, always living on the margins of society. They call themselves Minceirs, numbering about 40,000 in the whole of Ireland. Of note, they are separate ethnically from Romani/Gypsies. Their story is largely untold outside of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

My photographs will bring that story to life. My goal is to increase awareness of the Travellers, who share hardships akin to minorities worldwide. To complete the project, I need to spend more time gaining their trust, an essential factor in getting permission to document major life events like christenings, first communions, weddings, and funerals.

They face challenges of unemployment (84%), suboptimal education (most drop out by the age of 12-15), lack of culturally suitable housing, and a suicide rate of 5-7 times the Settled Irish population. Despite these hardships, Travellers are a remarkably resilient group that highly prize their culture & family life.

Since the 1960s, the Travellers have been forced to stay in Halting Sites (fenced compounds provided by the local government on the periphery of town). When halting sites are full, they live in illegal encampments of 3-4 caravans pulled off on a side road,frequently without water, sewer, or electrical services.

Boys may do as they please while girls are not allowed to smoke, drink or have sex until marriage. Theirs is an endogamous culture and marriage is encouraged. On average, they marry at age 16-17 and begin having children soon thereafter. They live as extended families. School is mandatory for the children, but rarely progress beyond high school. Most are uneducated. Many are illiterate.

Dogs, horses and sulky racing are big activities for the men. Distrust of non-Travellers is common. Like the Settled Irish, they receive government assistance based on need. Most are honest, but some are involved in theft and scams. Discrimination and racism directed toward the Travellers are prevalent.