Travellers, "the people of walking," are often referred to as the Gypsies of Ireland. Mistrusted for the most part, their traditions and lifestyle are not well understood within the larger culture. Historically, they were nomads who moved in caravans and lived in encampments on the side of the road. Their tradition as "tinkers" or tinsmiths, and as the breeders and traders of some of Ireland's best horses, goes back hundreds of years.
As times change in Ireland and the notions of private and public space change and contract, the culture no longer accepts the Travellers on public and private lands and has begun to create "halts" where they can settle.
The Traveller's live in caravans (trailers, RVs, etc.) and go from place to place, camping out.
Travelling girls don't really mix much with settled girls," says Shirley Martin, a 23-year-old mother of three. "The way of living, caravans, by the side of the road. A come and go thing. My family is a Travelling family."However, the Irish Travellers are not Gypsies in the sense that they're Romany:
There are similarities between Traveller and Romany Gypsy culture, but Travellers do not define themselves as Romany, says Mary Burke, associate professor of Irish literature at the University of Connecticut.Having a large family is desired and appreciated for many reasons, including the power and status of women:
As women age in Traveller culture, they gain power. They often outlive the men. They can become matriarchs in the culture, particularly if they have a large family. And there's prestige attached to being the mother of many.Living outside of mainstream society, has been the Traveller way. But the dominant society wants that changed, and is trying to force Traveller's to live within the system. Even though, they will always be outside the system, in terms of their struggle to adjust, as happens with just about all groups who are pushed, pulled and forced to "assimilate" into mainstream culture.