Tuesday 18 June 2019

'Living with everyday racism' - woman becomes first Traveller to graduate with a PhD

Dr Sindy Joyce is the first Traveller in Ireland to graduate with a PhD
Photo: Sean Curtin True Media
Dr Sindy Joyce is the first Traveller in Ireland to graduate with a PhD Photo: Sean Curtin True Media

David Raleigh

A woman who became the first person from the Travelling community in Ireland to graduate with a PhD, said she has “mixed emotions” about the accolade, as it reminded her of the community’s long struggle in accessing education.

Dr Sindy Joyce, a human rights activist, and doctoral graduate of the Department of Sociology at University of Limerick, was one of 67 graduates students conferred with a PhD on Monday.

Dr Joyce, from Newcastle West in Limerick, said she was “overwhelmed” with emotion, and very proud of her PhD, but added: “I’ve mixed emotions - on the one hand it’s really great, especially being a woman and breaking that glass ceiling, but it’s sad too that it has taken this amount of time for someone from my community to be a PhD.

“I’d love for all young Travellers to be able to reach as far as they want to reach, and they can do that - it’s about getting the opportunities,” said the 33-year old.

“There is a lot of inequality and education gaps that need to be filled. It’s good to have people from my community getting a PhD; It’s been quite a difficult journey, but it’s good to finally get here,” she added.

Dr Joyce interviewed a group of 40 young Travellers from Galway city about their experiences of integration with the settled community.

Her findings however, make for worrying reading.

She said those interviewed felt they had been treated negatively by gardai and the settled community because of their Traveller ethnicity.

“The Irish city I choose was Galway city. I took it as a case study as Galway is known to be one of Ireland’s most multicultural city’s and has a large mixed ethnic population. I looked at how multiculturalism works in Galway and how young Travellers use public spaces in Galway.

“I brought groups of young Mincéirs (Travellers) on walking tours of the city and observed how they use the spaces, what routes they took and why they took them - probably to avoid negative encounters.”

Dr Joyce said she analysed “what tactics they built up and learned” while in public spaces, “because of the amount of discrimination the community faces.

“You build up these tactics in order to overcome these racist and negative encounters; such as hiding you’re identity to get access to a public and shared space. You’re constantly thinking about what negative encounters could happen so you have to have tactics.”

She also found there is a “institutionalised stereotype” of Travellers embedded in the settled community, which is mostly negative-based.

“My research was specifically on the young Travellers themselves. In my opinion, Galway would be the best case scenario for Travellers, which is quiet bleak.

“The evidence I found in my research is not great. The Traveller community are living with everyday racism and everyday negative encounters. And this is internalised in the community, and they have to think about tactics on how to (avoid this).”

Dr Joyce added: “In my opinion, it would be as bad, if not worse, in other cities in Ireland.”

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News