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But the show largely avoided the myriad of problems, such as discrimination, poor health and poverty faced by Travellers, except for what felt like a tokenistic final episode, and instead focused on over-the-top wedding dresses and other excesses. MBFGW was about Gypsies and Travellers, but there was criticism from both communities that C4 failed to properly distinguish between the two. Since , Travellers have been recognised as an ethnic group and are protected under the Race Relations Act. Last week C4 was accused by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain of fuelling "hatred and suspicion" of their way of life and have demanded a right of reply.

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But the show largely avoided the myriad of problems, such as discrimination, poor health and poverty faced by Travellers, except for what felt like a tokenistic final episode, and instead focused on over-the-top wedding dresses and other excesses. MBFGW was about Gypsies and Travellers, but there was criticism from both communities that C4 failed to properly distinguish between the two. Since , Travellers have been recognised as an ethnic group and are protected under the Race Relations Act.

Last week C4 was accused by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain of fuelling "hatred and suspicion" of their way of life and have demanded a right of reply. Kathleen, who lives with her six children in a three-bedroom trailer, is fairly typical of an Irish Traveller woman, except that she is separated from her husband. Along with many other Gypsy and Traveller women in the UK, Kathleen was a victim of domestic violence. She now feels safe because she has male family members living on the same site.

It is rare for women to call the police for help. The situation probably isn't helped by the fact that there is only one, room refuge dedicated to Traveller women in the UK, also in London. But domestic violence is just one of the issues tackled by O'Roarke during her visits.

The welfare needs, particularly those of the women and girls, of this community are vast. The women are three times more likely to miscarry or have a still-born child compared to the rest of the population, mainly, it is thought, as a result of reluctance to undergo routine gynaecological care, and infections linked to poor sanitation and lack of clean water.

The rate of suicides among Traveller women is significantly higher than in the general population, and life expectancy is low for women and men, with one third of Travellers dying before the age of And as many Traveller girls are taken out of education prior to secondary school to prevent them mixing with boys from other cultures, illiteracy rates are high.

O'Roarke is a familiar face on the sites around London, offering women and their children help with health care, education and finance. I visit some trailers with O'Roarke at a site in London and am struck by how the women seem to manage, usually with large families, to keep everything so clean and tidy. There are colourful displays of Royal Crown Derby crockery, handed down from mother to daughter on her wedding day.

There is certainly no sign of wealth or excessive spending. Many tell me they struggle to feed their children, and have no savings or bank account. Things seem set to get worse for Traveller women.

O'Roarke is expecting to be the only Traveller liaison worker in the capital before long — her funding comes from the Irish government. Who is supposed to help them if they get rid of the bit of support they have now? If they get a letter saying they are in danger of eviction but they can't read it, what are they supposed to do?

Conditions on the site are as grim as the homes are spotless. The trailers are not connected to water pipes, and the toilets, bathrooms and cooking facilities are in a small, unheated shed across the yard.

But living on a site is about being part of the community. When Traveller girls are growing up, they are only allowed to go out with other family members, and once married, her husband rules the roost. Almost immediately her children became depressed. He would buck to get out," says Kathleen. I was on anti-depressives. The children couldn't go out because the neighbours would complain about the noise. Since moving to their site two years ago, Kathleen and her children have been far happier.

They won't let our kids mix with theirs because they say we stink and don't talk properly. Settled kids won't even play sports with ours in case they touch them. Mary, Kathleen's year-old daughter, is upset by the series too, and says that she has faced further prejudice since it hit the screens. All my friends are asking if it's true what they show on telly, and I think they've gone different [towards me] since it was shown.

In one episode the viewer was informed that young Traveller men at weddings and other social occasions use something known as "grabbing" to force a reluctant girl to kiss them. One newspaper report called it a "secret courting ritual". Brigid adds: "Grabbing has never happened to my kids. I have honestly never heard of it. It's all make-believe. We don't want that for our daughters. Mine was secondhand.

They'll now be saying we are all criminals, or sponging off the state. I ask O'Roarke what she thinks the future holds for Travellers. She is worried. She is concerned that problems affecting Traveller women and girls, such as lack of education, forced and early marriage, and abuse within the home, are not being taken seriously. But some say that things are slowly improving. Would Kathleen ever marry again? It is out of the question, she tells me. These things are just not done.

O'Roarke would like to see changes that include: "Better support for the women to keep their daughters in education, and a serious commitment from the government to challenge the prejudice thrown at these people. The reality is a far cry from the C4 depiction and is rarely aired.

O'Roarke tells me that Traveller women are usually reluctant to allow outsiders into their homes, despite the impression given by MBFGW. The big fat truth about Gypsy life. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian. Julie Bindel. Published on Fri 25 Feb M y Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, the television series that ended last week and attracted nine million viewers, was designed to "throw an overdue light on a secretive, marginalised and little-understood segment of our society", according to the blurb from Channel 4.

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We Love Dates is an online dating site dedicated to matching single gypsies from in and around the USA. We work to bring together single gypsies who are looking for fun, romance, flirting and maybe even love! We try to make it easy for single gypsies to connect, meet and match and ultimately, find a happily ever after.

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services. But this humble scene is a far cry from the four-bedroom semi-detached house where Jamie grew up, and the comfortable childhood that revolved around horse-riding lessons in the suburbs. We rarely speak and he and my mum have split up because he blames Mum for me running away with Davie. The gypsy community look after you better than people in the outside world.

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Comments: 3
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