Donegal residents Hugh Friel and Martin Mongan are included in a new booklet entitled “Inspiring Traveller Men” which profiles Traveller men nationwide who are making exceptional contributions to their communities.
Hugh and Martin are both community workers with Donegal Travellers Project (DTP), working for Traveller rights and delivering programmes which support the Traveller community. The two men have also participated in a number of fundraisers for worthy causes, most recently completing the 75-mile Sligo to Letterkenny Charity Cycle in support of cancer research.
The booklet was compiled and published by the national Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) as a companion to the “Inspiring Traveller Women” booklet which the organisation published last year. It can be downloaded from the ITM website at
The booklet profiles 31 men altogether, including a journalist, playwrights, adult learners, sports stars, carers, an herbalist, a gardener, sports coaches, community development programme managers, third-level students, an addiction outreach worker, a tinsmith, actors, an emergency first responder, and a wagon maker.
“It is fair to say that Traveller men disproportionately face racism and negative stereotypes of who they are and what they do,” ITM Director Brigid Quilligan wrote in her Foreword. “We hope that this booklet strongly challenges those lazy, racist stereotypes and instils pride in our community for the amazing things our men do in the face of hostility and fear.”
“As a resource this booklet gives everyone a fresh insight into Traveller culture and identity in the 21st century and is a small snapshot of things that Traveller men do,” said Hugh. “I hope that the stories shared in the booklet will challenge any myths and stereotypes that have negatively portrayed all Traveller men without looking to the positives that exist within our community.”
The booklet’s profile of Hugh describes his work over the past 15 years with DTP, campaigning tirelessly against institutional and individual racism. This work included his leadership role last year in addressing anti-Traveller remarks made publicly by a locally elected representative which were followed by an arson attack on a house that had been allocated to a Traveller family. Hugh challenged the anti-Traveller remarks in numerous television, radio, and newspaper interviews, and also facilitated media coverage of the family who had just lost their home.
Hugh serves as a member of a range of national and local organisations and committees, including the National Traveller Health Advisory Forum, the Mincéirs Whiden Traveller-Only Forum, and Donegal County Council’s Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee, Social Inclusion Measures Group, and Traveller Interagency Committee. He also works in solidarity with members of the Port na Fáilte Intercultural Platform and other ethnic minority groups in Donegal to build relationships and promote interculturalism, including through participation in Sport Against Racism activities.
“In my role as a development worker and as an activist, I have campaigned for the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group and advocate for the rights of the community in a human rights framework,” Hugh’s profile reads. “I continue to call for the redistribution of resources to the community to address the multiple levels of disadvantage the community experiences as a result of racism and marginalisation in Ireland.”
The booklet’s profile of Martin indicates that his initial involvement with DTP was through participation in the organisation’s youth programme. In 2008 he was a recipient of Gaisce, the President’s Award, which is Ireland’s most prestigious individual award for young people between the ages of 15 and 25. The award recognises recipients in four areas of accomplishment: community involvement, personal skill, physical activity, and adventure.
Martin went on to become involved in Traveller community development work as an adult, often volunteering with DTP’s Men’s Health and Fitness Programme and the organisation’s Summer Youth Programme. He was also recently employed by DTP on a short-term project as a youth leader, sharing his skills and experiences with young Traveller men.
“I am currently studying for a FETAC Level 5 Major Award in Community Development through the Irish Traveller Movement,” Martin’s profile reads. “This course has inspired me and built up my confidence. Through it I have met with other members of the community who are taking on leadership roles right across the country. I am confident that going back to education as an adult can make a real difference to people’s lives.”