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Wednesday 31 May 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Nora Corcoran
Opinion 'I mourn the loss of my younger years when I couldn’t embrace my Traveller identity and culture'
Nora Corcoran of the Galway Traveller Movement and Teresa Lavina explain why Lavina’s new documentary on Irish Traveller culture, Mincéir, is so important.

Nora Corcoran: ‘I’ve found my voice’

I WAS DELIGHTED to be asked to be a contributor to Teresa’s documentary Mincéir, which showcases Traveller heritage and culture in Ireland.

As a proud Mincéir Beoir/Traveller Woman, taking part in this documentary was a great opportunity to share our rich Traveller traditions, and claiming the space through the medium of film.

My part of this film came about through the making of Life On The Road, a short documentary of Traveller traditions and culture, with the Galway Traveller Movement, Galway Rural Development, Ballinasloe Traveller women’s Group and Teresa, for Culture Night in September 2022 in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

 Teresa is a Traveller ally, and understands the importance of Travellers wanting to create their own positive narrative in the media.

The lack of recognition and acceptance of Traveller ethnicity, traditions and culture in Ireland for far too long has meant most of young Travellers have no real sense of identity,

We need to archive our stories and our traditions for future generations, because we have lost so much of our rich heritage over the decades, that can never be recovered. So fundamentally, this is why films such as Minceir are pivotal to acknowledging and embracing our rich culture and ethnicity .

Growing up in an unequal society, I would have hid my ethnicity because I would have been conditioned to believe I was less than equal to my non-Traveller peers.

But that was the legacy of conscious bias and discrimination I faced from an early age, and now, as a mature adult, I embrace my Traveller identity and mourn the loss of my younger years of oppression, when I felt I could not embrace my Traveller background in a positive manner.

Younger generations

It is vital for our younger generation, and future generations of Travellers, that they know more about their origins, culture and heritage.

This documentary needs to be shared not just with our community but the wider population as there is so much lack of understanding and the misconceptions relating to Traveller culture.

For decades, the Irish Traveller community has been impacted by conscious and unconscious bias, oppression, discrimination and forced assimilation. History has excluded our rich heritage and culture – we are one of the oldest communities in Ireland, and I myself come from a strong nomadic family history.

Our community is small, less than 1% in Ireland. But we are a strong, resilient people with a culture and heritage that is so rich – with so many natural talents.

My father was one of the oldest Tinsmiths in Ireland when he died. That natural talent was passed down from his father and through generations. The film documents our stories about Traveller seamstresses, healers, midwives, and the making of the beady pockets and aprons, embellished and decorated, that Mincéir Beoirs wore with pride.

My mother also taught me how to make griddle bread and how to make paper flowers, two more traditions passed down from her mother.

Nomadic heritage

It is imperative that Traveller culture is not lost forever. I believe that in 2017 when the government finally recognised us as an ethnic minority, it was only a tokenistic effort.

Mincéir invites the viewer to share for 30 minutes in a life that is so important to us. I would like to think that this film will make way for better conversation and positive communication, and see that our ethnicity is not tokenistic, but an integral part of Irish history and culture.

Other members of our community participated in this documentary, and all of our stories are the same. We all have the same shared history of oppression. But our experiences only allow us to be stronger – and will never crush our Mincéir spirit, or stop us being proud of our culture

Working with an ally, like Teresa, without that conscious bias, does make it easier to participate in documentaries such as this one.

We had free rein in the documentary and shared many great stories and traditions.
I do believe that tourists and a lot of society do not always understand Travellers, but thanks to the power of film, our Mincéir traditions, culture, heritage, and proud history will travel the world.

I hope people enjoy and embrace it, and take something positive away with them when they see it.

Teresa Lavina: ‘Mincéir is an intimate portrait of Traveller culture’

Teresa_Headshot Teresa Lavina

The Irish Traveller community has a very important imprint in Irish history. A community that has endured a lot of harm caused by discrimination; it is also a community with a unique story to tell.

Mincéir is a 35-min documentary which brings the audience on a journey across the Irish Traveller community exploring past traditions, present transitions, future views and by sharing intimate secrets and stories. 

The documentary is centred on progressive, modern, and influential Traveller women and men from very different backgrounds, who are precedents for their community. They are members of groups who have helped highlight their needs and give a voice to the voiceless, and who have fought for years for Traveller rights, healthcare, and a better means of living.

It shows how the community’s resilience, adaptation skills and strength have carried them from being nomads to being settled. These members of the Travelling community share their passion for their culture and heritage, and how their uncomplicated means of living have made their tradition survive with little documentation aside from word of mouth, singing and storytelling.

Portraying without colonising

The challenge in making this documentary was to balance an accurate portrayal of Traveller life through the eyes of Travellers themselves, without colonising it. It was crucial to allow their stories to be told from their perspective and in their own time. This meant not scheduling so much and being ready to film at all times. The crew was minimal, most of the time it was just me and occasionally Gavin Lennon joined to record sound.

We were always respectful of their space, and were prepared to listen, and filmed hours of footage to allow every contributor to be comfortable and open in front of the camera. I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity, and I intend to donate all the footage to a Traveller archive so everyone can have access to it in the future and listen to the lovely contributions that carry open, humble, and raw conversations.

In making the film I had the continued support of many Traveller groups around Ireland as well as individuals who donated their time and houses to facilitate the filming. While editing, I was always in consultation with Catherine Joyce and Michael Collins, Mary McDonagh, and Thomas Connors to make sure I was true to my intentions.

The Travellers are natural storytellers, and in making this film, I entered an enchanting world with no unconscious bias and no prejudice. Every step was a fascinating discovery, and I was glued to what they had to say. Their traditions are filled with enriching stories and a beautiful sense of freedom and resilience which captivated me.

As I got closer to the community, their stories became more personal and we had many conversations where their emotional and spiritual sides came to the forefront, and I was heartbroken to hear of their struggles. We shared laughter, tears, frustrations and hopes.

I have always felt safe, protected, and welcomed in my many encounters with the community. I found the people I met to be incredibly generous and accommodating people, that still hold a big sense of community in the same way settled people used to be in the past. They are counsellors and supportive to each other. I was moved at the way they encourage, praise, and look after their kids and homes and the support and loyalty they have towards friends, family, and partners.

Many social norms and familial structures are reminiscent of my own Spanish culture. It was a welcome surprise to learn we share the importance of extended family. The Traveller families live in much the same way as we do in Spain, and on many occasions being in the company of Travellers felt so familiar it sparked an immediate feeling of warmth in me. I could also empathise with the discomfort of not being accepted, being part of a minority group and the lack of opportunities this brings.

I found many common links between Traveller and Spanish culture, from their straightforward way of communicating to the ability to show up unannounced at anyone’s home and be welcomed.

There are many lessons that can be learned from the Traveller community, if approached with an open mind free of prejudice.

The Irish premiere of Mincéir will be during Dublin International Film Festival, on 3 March at 4pm at the Light House Cinema. After the screening there will be a panel discussion from 5pm-6pm at The Generator. The festival runs from 23 February – 4 March. Mincéir can be also watched online, available for 24hours starting on 3 March at 5pm. For more information visit

Nora Corcoran is co-artistic director of the Misleór Festival of Nomadic Cultures 2023, with the Galway Traveller Movement.

Teresa Lavina is a Spanish filmmaker, film producer and film festival director based in Galway, Ireland. Her work focuses on themes of human rights and social justice with a particular focus on under-represented groups.

Nora Corcoran and Teresa Lavina