Twenty five years ago, President Mary Robinson put a light in the window of Áras an Uachtaráin as a beacon of hope, a signal to Ireland’s emigrants that our Diaspora were not forgotten. Today, we live in a very different Ireland, but that light still shines as a beacon of hope, not just for Ireland’s diaspora but also to welcome Ireland’s newest citizens to the country they now call home.
The Mary Robinson Centre’s mission is to perpetuate the ideals and work of Mary Robinson’s career and to inspire others in that same way. An important part of Mary’s work through the years has been to give a voice to those who don’t have one. The ‘Immigration and Ireland’ seminar at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life and the exhibition it accompanies ‘Migrant Women: Shared Experiences’ both give voice to very different perspectives of Mayo and its people.
During the seminar, keynote speaker and Visiting Scholar at The Mary Robinson Centre Professor Jane Freedman gave voice to migrants and refugees who are still on their journey to reach safety and security in Europe based on her first hand experiences visiting refugee camps across Europe – a rare voice that we seldom hear, but a very important part of the conversation. And who knows, some of these self-same migrants may yet call Mayo home!
Blessing Moyo, facilitator of the seminar, echoed the wishes of Mary Robinson herself in summing up the day’s events. The work of The Mary Robinson Centre must make us ask questions of ourselves, and we must be compelled to take action on behalf of others. Blessing challenged participants, reminding us of the answer to the often asked question ‘What can I do?’, saying ‘We can use our voices, we can give voice to others’. And that, that is what we must do.
For more information about the Immigration and Ireland Seminar, see the National Museum's website: http://www.museum.ie/Country-Life/Events-Projects/Seminar-Immigration-and-Ireland
Coverage of the event in the Irish Times here: "Direct Provision has to go!"
More pictures of the day can be found on our Facebook page.