Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Former Olympian teams up with RCSI to reveal history of Irish Travellers

04 November 2012
Dr. Gianpiero Cavalleri, a geneticist from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has teamed up with Dr. Jim Wilson from the University of Edinburgh and former Irish Olympic boxer, Francie Barrett, in order to trace the origins of Ireland's Travelling people. An event is being held to discuss these findings as part of the Dublin City of Science on Sunday 18th November.
Dr. Gianpiero Cavalleri, MCT, RCSI 

In 1996, 19 year old Francie Barrett captured the imagination of the Irish general public with his impressive performances in the Atlanta Olympics. Once forbidden to join his local boxing club because he is a Traveller, it was a defining moment in Traveller history when Francie was nominated to carry the Irish flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Now 16 years on, in the same year that fellow traveller John Joe Nevin won silver medal in boxing at the London games, this new research hopes to shed light on the history of the Travelling Community in Ireland.

The roots of this community has been debated for many years and many theories have been put forward such as Travellers predating the arrival of the Celts; being relatives of Romani Gypsies; and even being settled Irish people who ‘took to the road' during times of famine and times of eviction during the Cromwellian Settlements. Barrett wants to uncover the history of his people and in doing so try to understand why their culture is in danger of being wiped out today.

Over the past year, Barrett has collected Traveller DNA samples from every corner of Ireland. This DNA has been analysed, by RCSI and the University of Edinburgh, using cutting edge technology and the results will break the mould on what was known up until today about the history of the Irish Travellers.
This event will also consist of a screening of the RTE documentary, The Blood of the Travellers, followed by a Q&A session and will take place at the Irish Film Institute, 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 on Sunday November 18th at 1pm. To book a ticket for this event go to

The Dublin City of Science Programme is bringing a celebration of science to the capital, supporting over 160 events and activities that cross the worlds of art and culture to entertain the public and bring science to life. The range of science related events include; photographic and art exhibitions, several theatre pieces, film festivals, tours, street preformances, large-scale interactive installations, public talks, and a fashion show. For more information on Dublin City of Science 2012 visit