The 'Drive for Hope & Change' event is taking place in Cahir next Sunday (July 30th).
This event is being organised by Tipperary Traveller Horse Owners Association who have, over the past few years been working to promote positive and safe horse ownership across the county.
The Association has almost 200 members county-wide and have been working with the relevant statutory agencies to increase understanding and mutual respect around horses on the road. The Association were already featured in an RTE documentary (featuring John Connors of Love Hate fame) in which mental health challenges for Traveller men in particular were highlighted.
This is a charity event, with all proceeds going directly to Pieta House. The involvement of Pieta House, however, goes beyond fundraising. The organisation is also keen to highlight the critically high rates of suicide within the Traveller community. As with the Traveller Horse Owners, they also are keen to draw attention to the very strong links between horses and positive mental health. The importance of the horse in positive mental health has been well evidenced internationally, with specific horse-keeping projects promoting positive mental health being established in a number of countries. The event will be addressed by three speakers with a high national profile on the issues involved: Brigid Quilligan was for many years national Director of the Irish Traveller Movement and has recently been awarded an honorory doctorate by University College Cork. Margaret Casey is a prominent member of the National Traveller Women’s Forum, is Manager of the Tipperary Rural Travellers Project, and has been a long-time activist within the Traveller community. John Connors is an actor, known best for his role in ‘Love Hate’. He has since gone on to take on other leading roles, as well as fronting a number of influential documentaries on the Traveller community broadcast on national television. Cindy O’Connor has been involved with Pieta House since its inception in 2006 and now holds the position of Chief Clinical Officer. She is a professional Psychotherapist with a background in welfare Rights. The organisers see this as an important, and historic, first step in developing meaningful responses to the mental health crisis in the Traveller community. They are asking people from all sections of the community to show their support on the day and to play a part in the drive for hope and change.