Kerry girl from Travelling group says she will be able to’t guide a desk in a restaurant in the event that they hear her final title
Brigid Quilligan had a happy childhood, living in a trailer on Tralee Road in Killarney until she was five before moving into a house. Her family is a market trader and nomadic every summer.
“We’d go over to Kerry and Cork and have all the festivals and fairs,” she explains. “We had a great time!
“It was my first encounter with people who were different because our best friends in the markets were children from Pakistani families.
“I learned from my parents early on to be anti-racist and to accept people as you find them.”
Brigid says she was lucky enough not to experience bullying or discrimination frequently in school, but she was initially placed in separate classes for travelers – something that was “corrected very quickly” when her mother found out.
Unfortunately, as a teenager and adult, she was often discriminated against.
“On the last day of secondary school we went to the local night club and they wouldn’t let me in and it was obvious that it was who I was.
“I have sometimes been denied service or I may not be able to book a restaurant for a large group if they hear my last name.
“Every now and then people would follow me through a store like I was shoplifting!
“I would try to challenge it as much as possible, whether it happened to me or someone else.”
After graduating from secondary school, Brigid studied marketing and French in college but did not finish her studies and instead started her own small business.
She married and had a son and began working with travelers locally and then nationally.
She describes herself as both an activist and a feminist and is “delighted” to see how female travelers develop in society – starting their own business, working in caring professions and making waves in politics.
“There’s a stereotype that we’re very downtrodden, downtrodden women, and that’s not the reality,” she says.
“The reality is that we have a lot of power in our homes. Not all houses, because as in every part of society there is domestic violence and coercive control.
“But for most women, our opinions are really important in our homes, and that’s not the general idea of Traveler women.
“We are in a patriarchal society and we are victims of it. There are many problems that we have overcome as Traveler women. But we have so much more to do. “
On the subject of matching items
She says of Traveler women who marry young: “In our culture, our children have a choice at a much younger age. Some people meet their loved one at 16 and know from there, “this is the love of my life”.
“This is heard and respected in our community. Would I like to see people waiting more? Yes, because I think this is the way to get to know each other better. ”
Brigid herself was married for ten years, but it didn’t work out, and she says she had some backlash within the traveling community when she filed for divorce.
“It was very difficult for me and my son at first because the church didn’t accept.
“My son was bullied for it. My family was a bit shocked, but they gave me a lot of support. I had support to get out of a marriage in which I was not happy. “
The mother of one is now engaged to a Roma she met at a conference in England.
“Going out with a man of a different ethnicity, in a different country, was another shock to the community. We experienced a bit of discrimination, but we got over it, ”she says.
Her nieces find it “adorable” when she goes out with her fiancé on romantic weekends because they consider her “grandma”.
“I would be relatively young by settlement standards at 46, but in the traveling community you could be a grandmother or almost a great-grandmother in your 40s!” She says.
“My brother, who is younger than me, has five grandchildren, almost all of my friends have grandchildren except one or two.”
On the subject of matching items
She joked that she wasn’t going to have a “big fat gypsy wedding”.
“If we were to have a wedding here, we would have to have 500 or 600 guests. Instead of taking someone off, we hope to get through next year. ”
Brigid says she has hope for the future and thinks the situation will improve for Irish travelers.
“Right now, racism against travelers at the dining table or in conversations where other forms of racism are not tolerated is acceptable,” she said.
“When things like the Black Lives Matter movement are discussed, discrimination and racism that affect other ethnic groups are highlighted.
“We shouldn’t have to spend our whole lives fighting for our rights, we should be able to enjoy a little life too.”
She adds, “Travelers are like everyone else, but with an extra layer our culture gives us. We have the same problems as everyone else – relationships, finances, health, aging.
“Ultimately, we are all human and we are just trying to improve and pave the way for our children.”