Thousands savour sunny Africa Day celebrations
IT wasn't quite the searing heat of the African sun, but in Ireland it definitely qualified as summer.
Some 20,000 visitors basked in glorious sunshine as they celebrated 'Africa Day' at Farmleigh in Dublin's Phoenix Park.
There were also celebrations of Africa Day around the country in Limerick, Cork, Galway and Waterford.
African food, music and culture were the order of the day at Farmleigh, with picnics on the lawn and traditional African music.
Leading the festivities was Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who toured the African Bazaar where he met officials from a number of embassies, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.
He also met 'royalty' in the form of beauty queen Miss Africa Ireland – college student Osi Ugonoh (18), from Dundalk, Co Louth.
Mr Gilmore visited the stands of Irish aid organisations GOAL, Concern, Plan Ireland and Camara. And members of aid group Tearfund coaxed Mr Gilmore and junior minister Joe Costello to sit in their prop rowboat and to use a rod to catch some plastic fish.
In his address to the crowds, Mr Gilmore said Ireland had been associated with Africa for two centuries – initially through Irish missionaries who built schools and hospitals, and latterly through Irish Aid. However, this relationship was changing again.
"While we came through the phase of missionary work and aid work, we are now seeing Irish companies working in partnership with African countries. So the relationship between our country and the African countries is growing all the time," he said.
"Seven out of 10 of the fastest-growing economies in the world are now in Africa. Africa is really coming into its own."
However, Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), said if the Government was genuine in its commitment to strengthening relationships with Africa, then it must act on the key challenges facing the 60,000 Africans living here, including racism.
"At the ICI, we are currently responding to five serious incidents a week but our research shows victims and witnesses alike are still slow to come forward.
"People need to be assured that they have nothing to fear in reporting incidents," she said.