discrimination | 

Actor and film director John Connors says Irish state ‘went to war with Travellers'

‘Even for me, I was put in an all-Travellers class in school, deliberately segregated from the other kids’

Actor John Connors at the funeral of actor Stephen Clinch. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin© Colin Keegan

The Black Guelph

Clodagh MeaneySunday World

Actor and film director John Connors has said that the Irish state “went to war with Travellers.”

The Irish star told The Hollywood Reporter about growing up as a Traveller ahead of his brand new film The Black Guelph premiering at Oldenburg Film Festival on Friday September 16.

“I come from an Irish Travellers background. I don’t know if you’re aware of us, but we really stem from the old Gaelic Ireland, and we still hold on to a lot of the old ancient kind of ways,” he began.

“We were traditionally nomadic, but we were forced to assimilate by the Irish state. The state went to war with Travellers almost.”

“Every single institution discriminated against us,” he said.

“Even for me, I was put in an all-Travellers class in school, deliberately segregated from the other kids. And because they thought we were stupid, and couldn’t read, we were given colouring books instead of actually being taught.”

“My grandfather went to Letterfrack, which was like the Alcatraz of Industrial Schools, the worst of the worst. It was right on the edge of the coast, in Galway, and it was so rugged and hard to get there, you knew you’d never escape,” he said.

Explaining the title of his film, which follows small-time drug dealer Kanto, and his long-absent father Cormac, Connors said: “The Black Guelph were a group of people in ancient Italy who wanted to uphold the power of the Pope.”

“Anyone who opposed them was either massacred or banished, like Virgil, the great poet who inspired Dante’s Inferno, from which we also take inspiration in this film.”

“What we are really saying with the title is that the Black Guelph is Ireland. Ireland decided to protect the power of its institutions over the interests of its people,” he continued, adding: “And Ireland continues to do that in different ways.”

Discussing his struggles to shoot the movie, Connors said filming took place in January 2021, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.

“Then we had the lockdown. We couldn’t get costumes, props. It was freezing in January.

“The actors were ready to walk off set. Covid took up about a third of our budget.

“We had to come back, five months later, for reshoots. We shot 145 pages in 21 days. With 156 set-ups. It was crazy,” he said.

“I’m super excited to finally just get the film out there because it’s been so long in the works”

“I’ve worked a year and a half on this and didn’t get paid a cent, with no other work coming in and putting all my money into this,” he added.


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