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Galway Traveller Movement launched its photographic exhibition ‘Whiden Toie: A Celebration of Traveller Culture’ The Road to Recognition and Rights in Galway City Museum on the 6th June 2014 at 11.00am. The exhibition, which is one of the many events being run by the Galway Traveller Movement as part of its 20 year celebration, will be on view in the museum for 3 weeks. The exhibition developed in association with Galway City Council and funded by the Department of Justice and Equality for Traveller Pride 2014 was well attended by both members of the Traveller community and the settled community.
The photographs on display capture the diversity within the community and give a sense of Traveller culture, both old and contemporary. The audience was captivated by a demonstration, which was given by tinsmith/tinker, Tom Mc Donnell. Tommy Keane, uilleann piper, also played at the event honouring the Traveller piper tradition and in his speech he gave credit to Travellers for keeping the piping tradition alive.
Brigid Quilligan, Director of the Irish Traveller Movement, spoke on the day and commended Galway Traveller Movement for its contribution to challenging the issues facing Travellers at a local and national level over the past 20 years. In her concluding comments she once again called on the Irish government to recognise Traveller ethnicity and said that “recognition of our people is long overdue and at this stage this issue needs to be moved forward and ethnic status conferred as a matter of priority for the Travelling people”.
Hannagh Mc Ginley, Director of the Galway Traveller Movement, spoke about the history of Travellers and the importance of Traveller history being recorded and made accessible to both Travellers and settled people. She said “Travellers need to ensure that their history is told through their own eyes and not through the eyes of the post-colonial Irish”. Hannagh continued to say that “To know where you came from and to be allowed to take pride in your heritage is essential in order for a group to develop a positive sense of identity. It is great to see Travellers telling their own story. It is a real testament to the resilience of the Travelling people and gives me great hope for our future as I feel we will leave a better legacy for own children than the one that was left for us”.
The atmosphere on the day was electric and everyone that attended had something positive to say. Many of the comments from the invited guests captured the feelings the exhibition and speeches evoked. For example, Sharon Lawless, Galway City Council stated that the exhibition was “fantastic” with “powerful speakers” while a Missouri tourist commented that “it could not have been any better-emotionally provoking”.
Galway City Museum staff ensured that the event went off well by creating a friendly, welcome and open atmosphere and made a commitment to include diversity in all of its programmes . Brendan Mc Gowan , the acting director said that “Galway City Museum is
delighted to host this exhibition which celebrates Irish Traveller culture and debunks some of the widely-held beliefs about the Traveller community. It also serves to highlight issues with regards to rights and recognition and the work of the Galway Traveller Movement which this year celebrates its twentieth anniversary. The museum is committed to working with the GTM to promote the history and heritage of the Traveller community”.
The exhibition will be on display until the 23rd June and admission is free. On the 24th of June it will be on display in the library in Ballinasloe.