Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers have much in common, but also a lot that sets them apart. So what's the difference between the two groups? TOMOS POVEY found out more.

ROMANI Gypsies and Irish travellers are among some of the most marginalised groups in society.

Families right across the country, including in Gwent, grow up facing both isolation and bigotry.

Colleen Rogers, who is a Romani Gypsy, said she and her family regularly suffer various forms of discrimination.

The root cause is ignorance and misconceptions, according to the Newport resident, who runs the Northern Hay Stables in Brickyard Lane.

“People do not understand our culture and that is why there is discrimination.

“I have been in a pub in Newport my orders have been refused.

“One owner told me to leave. This was because of who I am. It was discriminatory to Romani Gypsies.

“We have discrimination shot at us on a daily basis. It ranges from our children having their long hair cut by other school children to people shouting things at us. I even had dog mess put through my box.

“People also confuse Irish travellers with Romani Gypsies. There are lots of groups under the ‘Traveller’ umbrella.”

South Wales Argus:

(Colleen Rogers with a family member in front of their wagon.)

Romani Gypsies and Irish travellers share a similar lifestyle, most notably the nomadic way of life.

But they are separate ethnic minorities.

Genetic findings suggest Romani Gypsies left northern India more than 1,000 years ago and later dispersed across the globe. They are the largest traveller group in the world.

Irish Travellers, despite sharing many common aspects in lifestyle, do not originally derive from India, but rather the British Isles. They also speak a language called Gammon or Cant - which fuses Gaelic with English words.

Mrs Rogers stressed that two of the biggest contrasts between the minorities are cultural and religious.

Romani Gypsies also tend to follow a ‘code’ which sets out a series of very strict rules and guidelines that need heeding to.


“One difference is that there is a certain way that Romani Gypsies dress,” said the 55-year-old.

“The clothes we put on is to show that we are Romani Gypsies, as well as for spiritual reasons connected to us.

“Irish travellers tend to have big weddings, while we do not. They also tend to be Catholic, while we are Protestant.

“We have strict rules to follow, too. If someone dies, for instance, we do not eat meat until that person is buried. We believe we are eating that person if we eat meat. Instead, we will eat fish, eggs, cheese, that sort of food.”

Sam Price, who is also a Romani Gypsy, echoed Miss Rogers’ comments, and added: “We are a close-knit community.

“That is part of our culture.

"Everything Colleen has said is true.

South Wales Argus:

(Sam Price at the site.)

“I have faced discrimination. I hate it when I hear someone say: ‘What have the Romani Gypsies done for us?’

“Well, my grandfather fought in the war and so did other Romani Gypsies’ family members."

South Wales Argus:

(Sam Price's grandfather (left) who fought in World War Two.)

A prominent member of Newport's Irish traveller community also spoke of discrimination he has experienced.

"You get people shouting stuff at you," said the Irish traveller, who wanted to remain anonymous.

"It is not nice.

"It is sad because we are very principled people.

“Yes, many of us live in caravans--but that should not cause a problem.

"There is so much that is not known. Irish travellers and Gypsies follow strict laws around cleanliness. Most do not want pets inside our homes because of this."

And now, Gwent’s Romani Gypsies and Irish travellers have issued a united call for the wider public to learn more of their cultures to combat bigotry, said the Irish traveller.

“The key part for Irish travellers is for us to take care of our family on our land,” he said.

“People need to know about our cultures. We are not bad people. That is why I am speaking out—the Romani Gypsies are too.

“We want the next generation to learn more about our culture. That way ignorance will disappear and we will not face discrimination.

“Hatred towards us has gone on for far too long. It has gone on since the war.”

Nazi racial policy dictated that Romani Gypsies were ‘Untermensch’ – meaning inferior people – and as a result needed to be exterminated.

By the time the World War Two came to an end in 1945, Nazi Germany had systematically murdered an estimated 17 million people who were deemed to be “racially inferior”.

Of those, between 500,000 to 1,000,000 were thought to be Romani Gypsies.

In desperation, thousands fled to Britain and their descendants remain here to this very day.

In the 2011 Census, an estimated 58,000 people identified themselves as Gypsy or Irish Traveller, which accounts for 0.1 per cent of the resident population of England and Wales.