The Inclusive Centenaries Conference, which took place today, Friday 17th of June, ahead of World Refugee Day on Monday, was to be a space for reflection on the meaning and significance today of the ideals set out in the 1916 Proclamation from the perspective of Ireland’s newest communities. In a spirit of dialogue and celebration of Ireland’s diversity in 2016, Inclusive Centenaries brought together people living in direct provision – especially women and young people – as well as members of other immigrant and local communities, elected representatives, policy advocates and NUI Galway leaders and decision makers.
As part of the conference, NUI Galway launched a new, merit-based Inclusive Centenaries Scholarship Scheme with support from Galway University Foundation. This national pilot scheme aims to assist high-achieving, second-level school leavers from Ireland’s newest communities to pursue their third-level educational goals at NUI Galway, to realise their full potential, and to contribute to shaping Ireland of today and tomorrow.
Pictured: Minister of State for Justice, David Stanton TD with student Victoria Chihumura
Minister David Stanton TD, the newly appointed Minister of State for Justice with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, said during his address that the Government is committed to further improving the living conditions in the State provided accommodation through the provision of enhanced catering facilities and increased living space for families and children. The Minister also noted that the accommodation system would come within the remit of the Ombudsman and the Office of the Ombudsman of Children.
The opening conference keynote address was delivered by former Justice Bryan McMahon, Chairperson of the Government’s Working Group on the Protection Process, including reform of direct provision. McMahon spoke strongly about the need to reform Direct Provision and that the Irish people supported doing so.
Other sessions at the conference included:
“Women Voices” was coordinated by Blessing Siphathisiwe Moyo and performed by the Eglinton Self Help Group who are currently living in direct provision in the Eglinton Hotel. The performance also includes students from St. Enda's College in Galway.
“Cherishing all the Children of the Nation: Voices of Young People Living in Direct Provision” featured moving speeches from young people currently living in direct provision in Galway, and a performance entitled “Endless Possibilities” through which the young people expressed their aspiration to be allowed to partake in third-level education and improve their living conditions within direct provision, as well to raise awareness of the inequalities of the system. The group premiered their original song “Shaping Futures” about educational inequality, under their group name “The Key” as part of this presentation.
“Inclusive Centenaries, Women’s Voices” featured presentations by Mercedes Varona an entrepreneur originally from Cuba, Ludmila Snigireva, representing Russian speaking migrants and Simmy Ndlovu, from Zimbabwe, reflecting on her journey from seeking asylum to integration. This session was moderated by Dr Nata Duvvury, NUI Galway, and our Visiting Scholar, Professor Jane Freedman spoke as discussant.
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, currently UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on El Nino and Climate was unable to deliver the closing address and launch of the Galway Intercultural Forum Resource Booklet 2016 as planned, but sent her compliments on the new scholarship scheme “The new scholarship launched by NUI Galway today is a very fitting expression of the Inclusive Centenaries theme – it captures the traditional value placed on education in Ireland while looking forward and supporting young people in new communities to follow their educational dreams.”
The Inclusive Centenaries Conference was funded by the Irish Research Council New Foundations scheme and organised jointly by the Centre for Global Women’s Studies, School of Political Science and Sociology, the School of Law, and the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUI Galway in partnership with The Mary Robinson Centre, Ballina and local partners: Galway County Council, Galway County Council Intercultural Forum, Youth Work Ireland, Galway and Galway City Partnership Intercultural Consortium and the vital input and inspiration from the Eglinton Self Help Group.
Speaking on behalf of the organisers, Drs Niamh Reilly and Ciara Smyth said: “Today’s presentations and performances by members of ‘new’ communities, especially young people, have reminded us that realising the values of the 1916 Proclamation is something that we all wish for and that education can be a shared journey that gets us there together.”
For details on the Inclusive Centenaries Scholarship please see http://www.nuigalway.ie/scholarships/
Further coverage of the scholarship launch can be found here: http://www.universitytimes.ie/2016/06/with-new-scholarship-nuig-to-support-students-from-irelands-newest-communities/