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Ireland's Got Talent finalist 'hurt' by online abuse about Traveller background

“I actually felt more hurt for the younger generation that they still have to face this.”

Sharyn Ward
Sharyn Ward
Image: Youtube.com

IRELAND’S GOT TALENT semi-finalist Sharyn Ward said she has been subjected to abuse online over her Traveller background after appearing on the talent show earlier this year. 

The 33-year-old Longford woman wowed the IGT judges with her rendition of Finbar Furey’s song Sweet Sixteen during her audition and is set to take to the stage at the Helix in Dublin for the first live show of the series, on Saturday night. 

However, since stepping into the spotlight, Sharyn said she has been subjected to abuse from “trolls” online and told of her experience tackling racism. 

Speaking on the Dermot and Dave show on TodayFM this morning, she said  she feared she would face racist comments even before she had auditioned and felt “hurt” by remarks over her background that were made on social media.

“One of the main reasons I said to Lucy [Kennedy] that I didn’t want to go on telly is because I was actually waiting, even though a lot of people say racism is not as alive as it used to be, it is still alive, very alive,” she said. 

“I was actually sitting at home waiting for those one or two comments to come in. There was a few slags, like slagging me about overdoing it with the make up and the tan – you know silly little things, I don’t pass any heed in that but it was just the deep things.”

Speaking of comments referring to members of Travelling community as “beasts” that need to be “exterminated” she said “it has to be painful for every Traveller, not just me”.

“I’m not going to be an activist about things, I‘m a singer but it has to be made aware. I said I wasn’t going to talk about and feed them trolls fuel for what they’re doing.

“I was hesitating. I kept it to myself for four days. I was very very upset. I hadn’t even told anyone around me… because I was afraid they’d go online and I didn’t want this.

“It’s not in me to argue with people. I’m not that kind of person, so I just didn’t want conflict, so I didn’t bother telling anybody,” she added.

Children

Sharyn’s two young children -Bonnie and Jack – were by her side during her audition, but now the mum-of-two said she is preparing them to deal with racism as they grow up. 

“It makes me feel really hurt for myself and my community because there’s children now who are trying to get forward.

“It’s a really sad thing that I’ve been preparing Jack and Bonnie since they’ve been babies for this racism because it will come to their door someday.

“I had to build them a little bit tougher,” she said. “We have already talked about racism, we’ve talked about it the past two or three years.”

“I actually felt more hurt for the younger generation that they still have to face this. I faced mine, I’ve been facing this all my life. I’ve got tough skin like most Travellers. You just knock it on the head and get over it but it’s the new generation.”

Sharyn is now calling on parents to teach their children to be open and accepting of the Traveller community. 

“The main thing people need to do is just teach your children. If you teach the next generation [to] stop listening to the ones before,” she said. 

“Don’t listen to what you’ve grown up to hear… ‘to stay away from Travellers, Travellers are bad’. Don’t listen to it. Start fresh with your own children. Tell them if you don’t know a Traveller, personally – meet one. They’re not bad people.”

This Saturday will see Sharyn and seven other semi-finalists take centre stage in the first live show of the series, along with a special performance from singer Mabel on the night. 

The second live show is set to hit TV screens on Sunday night with the cast of Riverdance making a special appearance. 

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