Irish Travellers


Irish Travellers' horses in the house

Kilkenny Ireland, Spring 2002 —

A coworker of mine at Heaton's retail shop in Kilkenny told me that the family of Maggie, a frequent shoplifter around town, used to live near to his own family. Maggie is an Irish Traveller. Irish Travellers are an ethnic minority formerly known as "Tinkers."

He said that Maggie's family was given a house by the government. It has been a common practice in the modernizing Ireland to try to give Travellers an "opportunity" to live a settled, landed existence. There is much debate about the propriety of this, especially because many Irish Travellers do not want to settle.

Maggie's family let their horses live in the house. The people themselves lived in a travel trailer on the property — the travel trailer, or "caravan" being the modern version of the covered wagon. Paddy said that when the family eventually sold and moved on, the house had to be demolished.

"They're like animals, they are, for all the world," said Paddy.

But a non-settled life is just an expression of the Traveller culture, and many simply prefer it. Many do not want full-time residence in one location.

The majority Irish population, the "settled" Irish ["buffers" in Traveller jargon] consider a permanent home the quintessence of security and comfort. Most people do, almost everywhere.

But, by the evidence, the Pavee don't. Most of them prefer to be mobile, most of the time.