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New documentary Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost to air on RTÉ One tonight
27 Nov 2023 : News Desk
Patrick's parents, Pat McDonagh and Michelle Ward with President Michael D. Higgins at a screening of Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost
Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost  is a new RTÉ documentary exploring the high suicide rates among the Irish Traveller community. Speaking about the film, President Michael D. Higgins said “It would be so valuable if all members of the public could see this film”.

Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost explores high suicide rates among the Irish traveller community through the story of 12-year-old Patrick McDonagh. The documentary only hears from Traveller voices, with the story told from their perspective and not through the lens of the settled community.

12-year-old Patrick from Finglas in Dublin, died by suicide a year ago. Sensitively following his parents, Michelle and Pat, as they come to terms with their loss, the documentary explores the wider multifaceted challenges facing the community and highlights the impact on those left behind. In sharing their personal story, Patrick’s family hope to inspire other people to speak up and ask for help when they need it. 

The documentary was directed and produced by Alan Bradley of Alleycats Films for RTÉ. The producers worked closely with multiple Traveller organisations in the making of the documentary including Meath Traveller Network and Kilkenny Traveller Movement. 

"What an honour it was to attend an advance screening of Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost,” said The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. “Even though I am familiar with the issues with which the Travelling Community struggle, the personal testimonies of Patrick McDonagh's parents, and Bernie Power moved me in a way I find difficult to describe. It would be so valuable if all members of the public could see this film, which describes a life lost to bullying. An incredibly talented boy, interested in all aspects of life and full of curiosity, within one year had his life destroyed.”

"RTÉ and Alleycat Films have in my mind placed all of us in their debt in what is a splendid, valuable exercise in public service broadcasting. There are so many reasons I could think of why this film should be seen in every household, and it would be just incredibly valuable if it were seen in every school." 

Research shows that more than 1 in 10 Irish Travellers die by suicide. The suicide rate for Irish Traveller women is six times higher than settled women. Meanwhile the suicide rate for Irish Traveller men is seven times higher than settled men. (Source: All Ireland Traveller Health Study, 2015) 

Leading Traveller voices from around the country including Senator Eileen Flynn and Director of the Traveller Counselling Service Thomas McCann, contribute to the documentary and delve into the complexities facing this marginalised and often discriminated against community. The documentary details research by DCU which states, 1 in 10 Irish Traveller children experience bullying more than several times a week. Meanwhile, 85% of the Irish public wouldn’t have a Traveller as a friend (Traveller Community National Survey 2017).  

In the documentary Senator Eileen Flynn says: “For at least five to six years of my late teens, early 20s, I felt ‘I don’t want to be a member of the Traveller community’. You're born into a community where society doesn't want you. You're born into a community where you’re rejected all of the time, feeling that pressure that you're an ‘other’. You know what I mean? Sometimes you feel that you're never going to be good enough.” 

The film, created in close collaboration with the Irish Traveller community, hopes to provide an opportunity to ignite conversations, dismantle stigmas, and encourage proactive measures to address the underlying factors contributing to this crisis. 

Director of the National Traveller Counselling Service Thomas McCann said: “We didn't have this in the past, we didn't have the levels of mental health and suicide ever that we have now in the last few years. There are more children, Traveller children, suffering from mental health issues and indeed some children have taken their own life. For younger Travellers growing up in our society, now has been particularly challenging. And there's a lot of pressures on young people as well in terms of bullying, particularly with social media, just very little escape from it in the past, maybe. Prior to social media, you could escape from it when you were home. Now it comes right into your home or into your bedroom so it's very difficult for the younger people to escape from that.”

Patrick: A Young Traveller Lost will be broadcast tonight, Monday 27th November at 9:35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player.

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