When I was growing up in the States, yes, I was affected by racism and it never gets easier.
Watching the protests from Ireland has been extremely upsetting, though it is not something shocking or surprising to me. The violence I have seen has been deeply concerning and my heart goes out to anyone who has been affected.
Coming from my own experiences, I am glad people are standing up for what is right. I have family in America, my mother and four of my sisters are currently in Washington. It has been hard to not be there with them.
The behaviour I have seen, the violence I have seen, breaks my heart. Black people are standing up for themselves but there are others, including white people, joining the fight, and I am glad we are coming together to use our voices.
It is hard to believe, but it is 2020 and there are still very negative things, terrible things, occurring against black people worldwide.
So this past week has been hard, but I am glad I have been able to use this platform to speak out against these injustices I continuously see happening against black people.
I was proud to be part of the Black Lives Matter protest in Ireland. I found the protest powerful and I was very proud Ireland stood up and came together to speak out about the horrific fatal assault on George Floyd. It was a very diverse group of people of all ages, of all backgrounds.
Of course, there are dissenting voices and one of the things I hear in response to Black Lives Matter is people saying "well, all lives matter". That's just offensive - at this vital moment, we are focusing on black lives, because it is black people being beaten, choked and killed. We are the target.
I often ask myself are Irish people racist? Recently I read statistics which were quite illuminating. The truth is that Ireland does have a racism issue, just as most countries do. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2018, Ireland ranked second worst in the EU when it came racial violence against black people. That statistic was upsetting to see.
Another statistic was that 51pc of black people in Ireland said they have been harassed in the form of verbal, physical or online threats, compared to an EU average of 31pc. Again, an upsetting statistic.
So, to the question, does Ireland have a racism problem? Absolutely. But what is important to note is that it is not enough to not be racist. It is important to be anti-racist. And being anti-racist means you don't just step away from the conversation saying it doesn't concern you because you are not racist. Being anti-racist means you actively work against racism. You are an ally and you speak up when you maybe hear someone say the 'N' word to someone and you say: "It is not okay."
I am the first black Miss Universe Ireland. When I won the competition, people posted racist things about me on social media. They condemned me and said there was no way I should have won because I am not Irish and I don't look Irish. In fact, they said there was no way I could be Irish because I was black and had a different background.
I was very proud of the Miss Universe Ireland organisation who stood up for me and directly condemned the racial abuse.
I was the first woman of colour to have won this title. Ireland, in 2020, is more diverse than it has ever been before. When I was a little girl, it was even less common to walk around and see other mixed-raced girls like me. I remember what it was like being so young and being in Ireland.
Racism comes in a lot of different forms. People can just dive in and touch your hair, because it is different. People can make fun of your name and say: "Wow your name is Fionnghuala, I thought you would have been called Shaniqua."
More often than not, it is not about someone being overtly racist, but they are being aggressive towards you subconsciously. They are promoting differences between you and them based on how you look.
The hurt and pain of what is happening in America is something none of us should shy away from. If anything, it means we are having a conversation about racism in Ireland, and that is a start.