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Monday 17 June 2019

The struggle for identity and an end to racism in the melting pot of cultures that is New Ireland

Jennifer Samuel (17), Samiya Mooge (23), Emmanuel Samuel (21) and Elina Feldmane (17) at the launch of the report. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Jennifer Samuel (17), Samiya Mooge (23), Emmanuel Samuel (21) and Elina Feldmane (17) at the launch of the report. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Young people from minority ethnic backgrounds in Ireland are the target of regular racist taunts and name calling, a report has revealed.

The undercurrent of prejudice suffered by a young generation, aged 14 to 24 years, who stand out because of the colour of their skin or Muslim hijab is revealed by the National Youth Council of Ireland.

Ireland now prides itself on welcoming immigrants to their adopted country, and the report notes that they can flourish if they can be given "safe and supported spaces".

The report records how an overwhelming 82pc were born outside Ireland and yet a significant 52pc have since become naturalised Irish citizens.

It notes how young people have to negotiate being accepted by peers from their own ethnic minority, as well as the majority population.

"How the majority Irish community judged and perceived the young people was a critical factor," it says.

Many young people who migrated from African countries to Ireland stressed their attachment to both countries, according to research noted in the report. But they still felt under pressure to conform to Irish peers.

However the report also highlights how a young black girl can be called a name such as "n****r" and "monkey" at least once a week.

The girl who described the name-calling insults and exclusion said: "I'm just saying this actually does go on and you're not taking it seriously."

The study explored the perspectives and experiences of 50 young minority ethnic people.

An 18-year-old Asian girl living in Leinster said: "You're scared to show people who you are because you're afraid that they're going to judge you from where you came from, and how you act. So you're just like scared of really being yourself."

The victims also spoke of struggles of identity and belonging as their families cling to their heritage.

One teenage boy said: "Your parents might be hanging on, [saying] 'but you're African and this is the way you should be' [but] just because your background is African doesn't mean that your culture can't be both African and Irish."

Another Asian girl said: "Sometimes people are surprised [by cultural practices]. Even though you try and explain they don't understand.

"We should be taught more about other cultures so that you understand why people act differently. What you might think is weird is completely normal to another person. If you're not taught that then you don't really know that."

The report 'Make Minority a Priority: Insights from Minority Ethnic Young People' points out that among the largest minority nationalities within the age group are Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Irish-American, Brazilian and Latvian.

Anne Walsh, of the National Youth Council of Ireland, said: "While these issues are not new, what is worrying is that this new research highlights that they are very much still part of everyday life for young people growing up minority ethnic in Ireland.

"All young people need to feel that they can take part in activities out of school."

She pointed out the findings of this research challenge people working with the young to ask what can be done to genuinely embrace and include all those who call Ireland home, and especially those for whom it provides their only home.

The report makes a series of recommendations.

Youth workers are encouraged to arrange meetings while anti-racism and intercultural training should be included.

Irish Independent

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