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Man (23) who landed job in Department of Taoiseach says it was ‘hard coming out as a Traveller’

Jason admits that ‘coming out’ as a Traveller cost him some of his friends.

Jason works in the Department of the Taoiseach

Eugene MastersonSunday World

A young Traveller has defied the odds by not only completing a four-year university degree but also landing a job in the Department of the Taoiseach.

Plucky Jason Sherlock is among just one per cent of the Irish Traveller population to have enrolled in third-level education, and is one of a number of contributors who feature in a new TG4 documentary series, Misneach.

Episode one of the new series, which airs this Wednesday, was filmed over the course of one academic year and tells the story of several Irish Travellers as they make their way through university life.

Jason (23) from Westside in Galway city, admits he first experienced discrimination when other students would make fun of Travellers, not realising Jason was one himself.

When Jason got an opportunity to study at third level, he set up the Minceirs Whiden Society at University of Galway, a support group for anyone interested in nomadic cultures.

He now has a degree in Politics and Economics and a Masters in International Finance, and tells the Sunday World: “My advice for young Irish Travellers hoping to go to third level is you do not have to give up your cultural identity for academic achievement.

“I could not see the benefits of higher education looking forward, but as I was coming through, I could see how far I came and where I could be heading.

“I had a terrible experience in secondary school with most of my friends leaving by the Junior Cert and I did not get on well with my teachers. It was complicated to continue further, but I wanted to better myself, so I stuck it out until the Leaving Cert.”

The statistics are stark with just 13 per cent of Travellers completing school compared to 92 per cent of the general population.

“This road was lonely for me to travel, but it made a world of difference when I got into university,” he maintains.

“It was the best thing I ever did. It opened many doors that I did not know were there, and the educational experience was entirely different from our experience in secondary or primary school.

“I thought I had to be more intelligent to do well in higher education, but that is not the case. I was on the brink of failing the Leaving Cert, but in university I received the highest university grade for my academic results for my undergraduate degree.”

Jason went job hunting after he got his degree in Politics and Economics and eventually obtained a position in the Department of the Taoiseach.

“The Department of the Taoiseach is great, very supportive staff,” he says. “I have been working there for the last six months and I am an Executive Officer in the Government Information Service at the department.

“I mainly support the work of the press office but I have been involved in the running of the Government of Ireland Village at the World and National Ploughing Championship 2022 and attended a recent National Cyber Security drill.”

Jason admits that ‘coming out’ as a Traveller cost him some of his friends.

“I have lost friends who stopped talking to me because they knew I was an Irish Traveller. I don’t really understand it, as you’d generally judge a person by their demeanour and not ethnicity or sexual orientation.

“I felt it was hard coming out as a Traveller because of discrimination and job prospects, but when I told my colleagues and friends it didn’t matter to them, like they don’t treat me any differently.”

  • Misneach – Tome Insuirt Grani - Neart San Eolas airs on Wednesday at 9.30pm on TG4 and on the TG4 Player.

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