Frequently asked questions about Travellers
Frequently asked questions about Travellers
The following information about the Travellers is from the Pavee Point organisation,


Who are the Travellers?

The name “Travellers” refers to a nomadic Irish ethnic group. Irish Travellers are a people with a separate identity, culture and history, although they are as fully Irish as the majority population.


What does “Pavee” mean?

Pavee is a word used by Travellers to describe themselves.

How many Travellers live in Ireland today?

There are estimates of around 30,000 Travellers living in the Republic of Ireland, with about 1500 more living in Northern Ireland.

Do Travellers speak a separate language?

Travellers do have their own language, called “cant” or “gammon”, which is sometimes referred to by academics as “shelta”. This is a language mostly used by Travellers to speak with each other.

Who are the Irish Travellers in the United States?

There are around 10,000 Travellers in the United States, with around 2,500 Travellers living in a place called Murphy Village, South Carolina. They are descendants of Travellers who left Ireland, mostly during the 1845-60. They have maintained a separate cultural identity, and several Irish Traveller traditions, including some usage of cant, devout Catholic faith, and strong communal ties. (source: Dan and Conor Casey, Irish America Magazine, Sept/October1994)

Where do Travellers come from?

Travellers are native to Ireland; they have been part of Irish society for centuries. While Traveller history is largely unrecorded, research dates their origins to before the twelfth century.

What kind of occupations do Travellers have today?

Traveller occupations in the past included tinsmithing, seasonal farm labour, door-to-door sales and recycling. While many of these occupations have become more difficult, or even obsolete, many Travellers are employed today in a variety of economic activities, including market trading, scrap collecting, and antiques dealing. A small number of Travellers are have their own business, such as shops and garages. Other Travellers are employed in community enterprises established by Traveller groups, or with voluntary organisations, and training centres. However, some Traveller families have become deskilled and are dependent on social welfare for survival.

Do Travellers face discrimination?

Racism against Travellers is a problem. Racism at the individual level is evident when settled people march on or attack Travellers’ sites, when Travellers are harassed out of housing estates, or refused service in shops or pubs, when anti-Traveller literature is printed or distributed. Racism at the institutional level is evident at several levels: the educational system makes little provision, in either content or structure, for the culture of Travellers or other minority ethnic groups; the media often reinforces negative stereotypes; the laws and practices of local authorities actively discourage nomadism.

What are the similarities and differences between Travellers, Gypsies and Roma?

Travellers, Gypsies and Roma have some things in common. They share a nomadic tradition and its associated lifestyle, culture and values. Unfortunately, they also share a long history of persecution, rejection and social ostracism.

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