Patrick, who is studying for an undergraduate degree in History and Economics at Trinity College Dublin, is 20 years old and grew up around Omagh, Co. Tyrone. He is also an Irish Traveller.
Patrick was aware of being thought of as different by some people during his school years. He recalls how his mother was really annoyed when the mother of another pupil expressed surprise that he had passed his 11+ exam and was accepted into the same school as her child. His mother felt the comments were based solely on a badly hidden racial prejudice.
Patrick recalls being subjected to abuse himself on some occasions – being called ‘gypsy’ and other derogatory remarks. However, he paints a quite happy picture when talking about his experiences of primary and second level education; and describes his transition to second level education as smooth. He believes he was very fortunate to have supportive teachers who played an important role in guiding him to academic success during his GCSE and A Level years. That is an experience he believes was other Travellers, including his own siblings, did not have during their school years.
“I just want to have the same opportunities as my fellow students – this is about doing my best academically. It shouldn’t be a big deal that I’m a university student because I am a Traveller – it should be a big deal because I worked hard to get here!” Patrick continued.
“Everyone in my class wanted to go to university, and I wanted to go too. I wanted to study for a degree and nobody ever told me I couldn’t. On A-level results day, I was so delighted I got the marks I needed to study my first choice of History and Economics at Trinity,” said Patrick.
“I am enjoying my time at university, and I hope my educational journey can inspire other members of the Travelling community to follow their dreams too. There should be no reason why a Traveller cannot do as well as a settled person. It is the decisions and the commitment we make as students that will determine our progress and that is an individual choice.
Patrick believes that the government should develop policies to help other members of his community access the university route and believes that scholarships or bursaries for university would help. He believes that many young Travellers are constrained by the financial burden of getting a university education. Also, too often their parents don’t see the value – or the possibility - of higher education and he thinks there is also some convincing to be done within his community.
Looking to his long-term future Patrick hopes to build a career around the university life that he is fully immersed in now. “Ideally I will get a teaching or research position in a university following the completion of a PhD” concluded Patrick.