Yesterday, 67 students were officially conferred with PhD awards from the University of Limerick. Among them was Dr. Sindy Joyce a well known human rights activist who graduated from UL's Department of Sociology.
Her achievement also has an added layer of significance, she is the first person from a Travelling community to be awarded a PhD in Ireland. Her PhD thesis examined how young Traveller's movements, through their use of and access to commercial and public urban spaces, are shaped by their ethnicity and anti-Traveller racism.
Given the tumultuous year in politics with regard to Irish views on the Travelling community, her doctoral conferrence comes at a very important time. Peter Casey's surprisingly high return in the presidential elections, 23.3% of the vote, was in part predicated on his occasionally disparaging comments regarding the Travelling community. Dr. Sindy Joyce's accomplishment is an important milestone to help subvert such narrow-minded presumptions about the Travelling community.
Martin Collins, Co-Director of Pavee Point, commended Dr. Joyce for her decision to write her thesis on inter-community dynamics, saying that it was rare for a Traveller to study their own community in this way. "Travellers down through the years have often been researched and documented - but usually by people outside our community. It is an important step for Travellers that we have our own academics who can decide what is important from a research point of view - and what is ethical in carrying out this research."
Dr. Sindy Joyce will hopefully be the first of many and signals a greater representation of Travellers in academics.
As part of the conferring ceremony several honourary doctorates will also be handed out to, among others, novelist Marian Keyes and Bob Geldof. There will be a ceremony on Friday were the late singer of The Cranberries, Dolores O'Riordan will be given a special posthumous award, with the other members of The Cranberries being granted honourary doctorates.