Nan Joyce becomes the first member of the Traveller Community to stand for election in the history of the state.

In May 1982 anti-traveller feelings were running high in the Tallaght area of Dublin, and in a bid to oust the travellers from the roadside, a number of residents marched on Dublin County Council.

In response, Travellers and their supporters marched on Dáil Éireann to highlight the problems that come with life on the road. From this group of marchers, the Committee for the Rights of Travellers was born under joint chairpersons Nan Joyce and Tony Hackett.

Nan Joyce was subsequently selected by the Committee to run as a candidate in the general election of November 1982, in the Dublin South-West constituency, thereby becoming the first Traveller to seek a seat in the Dáil.  

Seamus Leonard, publicity officer of the Committee for the Rights of Travellers believes the fear and prejudice amongst those in the settled community means they no longer talk to travellers. However Nan is using her time canvassing to educate voters in the Springfield area about the Traveller way of life in the hope of developing a greater understanding between the two groups.

Nan believes Irish people need to be educated about how the Travellers live.

We want to make friends with the settled people and we want them to become friends with us.

She dispels the notion that travels do not want to settle, however she feels they should be consulted about where they want to live.

Half of the travellers want to settle, I want to settle, I want a house for my children and I don't want to live with the settled people.

On the day of the election, while Nan’s election agent Tony Hackett casts his vote, Nan herself cannot vote because she was not on the register. Life on the road means very few Travellers are on the register and so they are not entitled to vote. Even so Nan polls 581 votes, well ahead of either of the two other independents running in the constituency, and she is visibly proud of her historic achievement.

This episode of ‘Ireland’s Eye’ was broadcast on 29 November 1982. The reporter is Mairéad McGuinness.