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Ireland's Got Talent singer and 16-year-old Mayo activist honoured at Irish Traveller Awards

An Oireachtas employee, a 16-year-old Dublin boxer and a mental health campaigner also received awards.

Source: Ireland's Got Talent/YouTube

AN ACTIVIST FOR teenage Traveller girls in Mayo, an Oireachtas employee and an Ireland’s Got Talent contestant were among those honoured at the annual Traveller Pride Awards.

Others who were awarded today include an institutional redress campaigner; 16-year-old multi-titled boxer Thomas McDonnell; and Minnie Connors, a suicide and mental health activist, who has lost 9 members of her family to suicide.

The Traveller Pride Awards is the flagship annual event for Traveller Pride Week, which starts on 3 June, and aims to generate huge positivity within the community.

Sharyn Ward’s performance as one of the finalists on Ireland’s Got Talent resulted in her nomination for the music award. Since the show, the 33-year-old has been performing at events to raise awareness of Traveller mental health. She is finalising her record contract and a first concert is being planned for July this year.

“This award means so much to me, more than ever winning the final of Ireland’s Got Talent. I’m so proud to be a tinker,” she said.

The award for Enterprise and Employment went to Galwayman Oein DeBhairdúin, who works in the Oireachtas office, and said that he was “deeply honoured” and “humbled” by his win.

Our lives are politicised and therefore it has been a privilege working in the Oireachtas, to be more a part of the conversation rather than recipient of it.

“In the week of local and European elections where no Traveller was elected, I think it is more poignant and important that we not only recognise attempts to close the gaps in Traveller representation but also recognise the real living potential inherent in respectful and actual inclusion.” 

Laura Angela Collins received the first award in the scheme for Intersectionality for her campaign towards institutional redress related to her grandmother’s burial in a mass grave with 72 other women, residents of St Vincent’s Magdalene laundry, Cork.

On accepting the award, she said “I’m more than honoured to be accepting the Traveller Pride Award in my category”.

I personally feel this is for all the women in my family who walked before me, who were targeted and told they couldn’t be proud of who they were. When we should all be allowed to be.

Sixteen year old Nikita Maughan set up a Travellers girls’ group, the first in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo.

She encourages the girls’ self-belief and organises different activities such as personal social development activities, empowering them and helping to increase their self-esteem and confidence.

She said: “It’s a very proud moment to be chosen among others for this award. I’m glad all my hard work has been recognised by the Traveller Pride Award. It’s an honour and a great achievement for me.”

The Charleville Traveller Women’s Group, which is almost 20 years old, received the Arts/Culture Award for their play No Fixed Abode, which deals with the frustrations of homelessness amongst family members. Picking up the award, Anita Toner said “Ecstatic is an understatement for how we are feeling to have won the Traveller Award”.

This gives us a sense of achievement and recognition, and knowing that our hard work has paid off is very important to us.

Among those presenting to winners were singer Mary Black, historian Catherine Corless, Minister for State at Justice and Equality David Stanton TD and Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

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