Ireland will flourish in the years to come due to migration, the country´s President, Mary McAleese, said last week in Dublin when the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue was launched.
According to President McAleese, migration is part of who and what the Irish are.
"The reality is that the people of the world, and the Irish foremost among them, have always migrated in search of a better life," said President McAleese.
The European Year of Intercultural Dialogue was officially opened in Ireland by President Mary McAleese in an event organized by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI). In her opening address, President McAleese highlighted the importance of intercultural dialogue as a core value across the European Union.
Launching the Irish strategy for EY/ID 08 she said; "This initiative, though tailored to the Irish 'market', is part of a programme which is being run throughout the European Union in an effort to inform citizens of the opportunities and benefits of cultural diversity and of diversity's place at the core of the European value system, with a view to improving our societies' abilities to deal in a healthy manner with today's increasingly open and complex cultural landscape."
The President went on to emphasise how migration "who and what we are now."
"The reality is that people of the world, and the Irish foremost among them, have always migrated in search of a better life,"she said while highlighting that, in Ireland, immigration was not just a by-product of the country´s success but a requirement for continuing success.
"We will build tomorrow's Ireland together whether we call ourselves Irish, British, Polish, Chinese, Latvian, Ukrainian, Ghanaian... A new generation will soon flourish which will perfectly, spontaneously describe itself as Polish/Irish, Nigerian/Irish and all the rest. They will draw easily from a variety of cultural wells and they will deepen and strengthen our heritage, their heritage."
The President encouraged widespread participation in the events being organized as part of the European Year. "I would encourage everyone, be they Irish national or newcomer, to engage actively with the intercultural dialogue process and to participate wholeheartedly in the sequence of events being organised, so as to ensure that the objectives of the Year will be realised to the fullest extent in this country. It is a chance for each of us to take the initiative, to have the courage to reach out to strangers, for the Irish to show our famous hospitality and the newcomers to show their interest in this, their new homeland, and between us to make our country a byword for harmony and mutual understanding."
Also present at the event which attracted 620 participants were Minister of State of the Office of Integration, Conor Lenihan TD and National Ambassadors for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, Ms Anna Lo, MLA in Northern Ireland who is the first politician born in East Asia elected to a national parliament in Europe and Mr Chinedu Onyejelem who is the editor and publisher of Ireland´s first multi cultural newsletter Metro Eireann.
The launch included artistic performances from the intercultural music group Havana Son which features musician from Cuba, Argentina, Spain, Ireland and Hungary and the Theatre group Calypso Productions which through its cross cultural Tower of Babel Project works to showcase the talent and skills of young people from minority ethnic communities side by side with their Irish counterparts.
"In all intercultural and anti-racism work, a cross cultural awareness of the arts is a vital component," said National Ambassador Micheál Ó Suillebháin, Chair of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, in a statement before the launch. "In Music and in Dance especially we move beneath, beyond, and above language to find a more direct access to languages of the human heart."
A series of events spanning across six key programme areas are planned for the Year in Ireland including a focus on Community Participation and Sports, Arts and Culture, Service Providers, Young People and the Business and Trade Union sectors. Further details available from NCCRI which is the National Coordinating Body for the Year in Ireland.