Barrett disgusted at pubs for barring Travellers
CLAIMS that John Joe Nevin's Olympic success has united Traveller and settled communities have been dismissed by fellow Traveller Francis Barrett, who says there has been little change since he led the Irish team out at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Barrett travelled from Galway to join the 6,000 people who packed Cusack Park in Mullingar for the homecoming of John Joe and Irish equestrian Olympian Joseph Murphy.
The pint-sized fighter was proud of John Joe's achievements, but said he was disgusted that Nevin family members were not allowed to watch his fights in the pubs in Mullingar.
The family had to travel to a pub four miles outside the town, where around 100 friends and relatives gathered to cheer on the boxer.
"It is wrong," said Barrett. "If African or Polish people were not served in pubs because of their nationality, there would be big trouble and so there should be. It is time now for the Government to get involved.
"If someone messes in a pub and gets put out they should be barred and barred instantly, but if someone has never been in a pub before and gets turned away for no reason, well that is a different issue.
"I wouldn't say all Travellers are good. Some cause fights, drunken arguments and break places up, but you should not paint them all with the one brush.
"It is a disgrace that these pub landlords closed the door of the pubs. John Joe comes back with a silver medal. By rights they should be proud -- he is fighting for his country."
Francie was known as 'Southpaw' and was the youngest member of the Irish team at the 1996 Olympics, carrying the flag in the opening ceremony.
Like John Joe, he insisted he would also stay true to his Traveller roots, but said he believed at the time that the barriers that faced Travellers in Ireland 16 years ago would soon come tumbling down.
"I never regret carrying the flag for Ireland," Barrett said. "It is close to my heart. I boxed in the Olympic Games and I carried the flag for myself, my family and my country.
"Six weeks after I came back from the Olympic Games, I was turned away from a bar. Fair enough, I didn't come back with a medal, but I came back with my pride and what I achieved from training in a cargo container, to carry the flag in the biggest event in the world.
"They have to change. The Government has to step in. Their (Travellers') money should be as good as anyone's."