Saturday 23 March 2019

One of Ireland's first Traveller rights activists Nan Joyce has died aged 78

Nan Joyce
Nan Joyce
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

One of the country’s first Traveller rights activists and grand-aunt to ‘Love/Hate’ star John Connors has died.

Tipperary-born Nan Joyce (78) was the second eldest in a family of 11 and was raised travelling across Ireland with her family. 

In the early 1980s, she co-founded the Committee for the Rights of Travellers and later became the first member of the Travelling community to stand as a candidate in the general election of 1982.

In 1988, Ms Joyce wrote the story of her life in an autobiography which was included in the women writer’s volume of the ‘Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing’.

In 2010, she was given a lifetime achievement award by President Mary McAleese.

Actor John Connors posted a tribute to his grand-aunt on Facebook.

“She was one of the first major Traveller activists. She helped Travellers up and down the country to access basic needs and services and rallied for equality for decades.

“She famously received a standing ovation in Brussels in front of a number of Nobel prize winners. The woman was a force of nature. Luka Bloom wrote an incredible song about Nan and another heroic woman, Rosa Parks.

“Nan is gone now but she’ll never be forgotten and I hope her fighting Irish Traveller spirit lives on in the new generation.”

Ms Joyce’s nephew Bernard also wrote a touching tribute to the veteran campaigner. He said his aunt would be remembered for “rising above the hatred, prejudice with integrity and respect for human rights”. 

Mark Donohoe, from Belfast, also wrote about his aunt on Twitter. “With great sadness, my aunt Nan Joyce has passed away peacefully in Dublin this evening. She had worked tirelessly for human rights for decades in Ireland, north and south. I’ve always been proud of her and the work she has done for our people. Chuid eile i síocháin. Rest in peace,” he said.

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