Almost two in every five Traveller marriages are between cousins
Published 04/05/2003 | 00:11
ON being informed that consanguinity is, as a government-funded paper put it last week, "a central part of (Traveller) culture", many people could be forgiven for suspecting that the word must be an archaic one referring to the practice of terrifying the publicans of Mayo.
What it actually means is marrying one's first or second cousins. Up to 40 per cent of all marriages involving Travellers are between first cousins, and the Traveller Consanguinity Working Group clearly does not intend doing anything to bring the total down. "It is unrealistic to try to radically change their marriage behaviour," the report simply says, adding that whilst marriage between cousins may be considered "sleazy" in the West, it is common throughout Africa and the Middle East.
Nora Lawrence, a Traveller working with Pavee Point, put it bluntly to the Irish Times: "We've never seen anything wrong with it. The settled people have a lot of myths about it, but it wasn't an issue for us. We've always had cousins marrying." So that's alright then.