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Human Rights
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Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Ireland, Traveller, Children, Family, Tradition, Culture, Discrimination
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The Travellers are a group of roughly 36,000 that make up Ireland’s last nomadic society. Though relatively unknown outside of Ireland, they face overwhelming levels of stigma and discrimination within their homeland.
Mackenzie Reiss

2011 — student award of excellence

When I asked Michael Collins to tell me about his family, he drove me to his uncle’s house in northern Dublin. As we pulled into Avilla Park, a modest tract of one-story houses, I asked which one was his.
Collins gestured to the 56 homes in front of us, “All of them,” he said, “56 houses and all of them Collins’.”

Michael Collins is an Irish Traveller. He is just one of roughly 36,000 that make up Ireland’s last nomadic society. The Travellers are relatively unknown outside of Ireland, but face overwhelming levels of stigma and discrimination within their community.

Their penchant for migrating in large groups and camping in public spaces, quickly earned them the label of ‘nuisance’ in Dublin and other metropolitan areas. For a people who once earned stable livings as craftsman and traders, the spread of technology and globalization has come as a devastating blow.

To preserve their lifestyle and traditions, the Irish Travellers must prove to the government and fellow Dubliners that those are things worth saving.

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Pauline and Helen Collins, and Margaret Keenan, live in Traveller-specific housing, but attend an integrated school, allowing them to mix with settled children. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
Margaret Keenan, 10, keeps an eye on her her baby cousin, Kathleen. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
The Keenan family lives in a small trailer in their backyard while they wait for governmggent-funded construction workers to repair their home. Like many other families in Avilla Park, the Keenans have waited months for construction to begin, and even longer for them to finish. In Traveller-specific housing communities, like Avilla Park, Traveller families are permitted to make requests as to the type of housing provided, but due to the large size of Traveller families, these requests aren't always met. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
Winnie Keenan peeks through the trailer window to greet her neighbors who are also waiting for their home to be repaired. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
Michael Collins, 13, picks at a mural outside the preschool that has been defaced. The Equal Status Act may have passed in 2000, granting Travellers legal grounds to file suit against discriminators, but that hasn't stopped local vandals, and some pub and shop owners from welcoming the Travellers into their communities. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
Patrick Collins, 5, plays in a construction site at Avilla Park. At least five homes are under construction to remedy problems with heating, insulation, and space allocation. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
James Collins is the master builder behind the construction of his family's caravan, which can house up to 12 people. It took Collins a year to built the frame by hand, and to do the detailed paint-work on the caravan's sides and tires. James cannot read and never went to school and made a living as a tinsmith before the Roads Act of 1993 barred roadside encampments for Travellers. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
Megan McCann, 12, has lived in the Traveller-specific housing community, Avilla Park, all of her life. As an older child, it is her duty to look after her younger siblings and cousins who also play in the streets after school. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
Michael Collins heads home from a weekend selling mechanical parts at a local flea market. He says that although times are tough financially and socially for Travelers, it's not something he would ever be ashamed of. Collins plans on returning to the markets every month to maintain the Traveling lifestyle as much as possible. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation
Samantha Collins joins friends on the grounds of a Traveller-specific preschool in Avilla Park on weekday afternoons. She feels safe playing amongst other Travellers because she won't be subjected to discriminatory name-calling by settled children. Terms like, "pikey," "tinker," and -most offensively- "knacker" are common insults used against the Traveller community. Mackenzie Reiss/Alexia Foundation