Parish Priest to the Travelling Community
Despite generations of poverty and prejudice from both the government and ordinary Irish citizens, the faith of the itinerant Irish Traveller community today is strong, say local parish priest, Fr. Paul O’Driscoll.
There are about 40,000 Travellers in Ireland, about 0.7 percent of the population. Fr Paul O’Driscoll is their parish priest and says the challenges of a nomadic parish keep his job constantly new and interesting. The parish, for example, doesn’t have a set church for Mass. Instead, they borrow churches throughout the Archdiocese of Dublin for liturgical celebrations.
O’Driscoll believes the discrimination that the Travellers experience has lent itself to a deepening of their faith lives.
“Education, accommodation, employment. These are the elephants in the room for a lot of young traveller people,” he said. This vulnerability, he said, leaves Travellers with a “greater openness to the faith dimension.”
O’Driscoll says they are majority Catholic, and are “strong believers”.
In 2017, the Irish government recognised Traveller as an ethnic minority. O’Driscoll explained more about his work to Conor Deane.