President Michael D Higgins speaks to Show Racism the Red Card

President Michael D Higgins spoke at the Awards Presentation which concluded the Anti-Racism Creative Competition 2012.  The event took place on Thursday 19th April and was attended by over 450 young people from 24 schools who travelled from around Ireland to be at the AVIVA stadium for the presentation._______________________________________________The Creative Competition was funded by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration at the Department of Justice and Equality www.integration.ie_______________________________________________I am very pleased to have been invited to attend this event and speak to you today on the occasion of the presentation of awards for the Show Racism the Red Card Creative Competition.In my inauguration speech I said that that my Presidency would seek to be one that seeks to achieve an inclusive citizenship, where every citizen participates and everyone is treated with respect, and where everyone is able contribute creatively to and enjoy in all its facets this country of ours.   Seo iad na luachanna atá ag croílár an togra atá á cheiliúradh inniu agus tá áthas orm a bheith páirteach sa togra seo. Chomh maith leis sin dúirt mé go dtabharfaidh mé spreagadh do phobail a chuireann athrú dearfach ar fáil. Creidim go gcuireann muid go mór lenár bhforbairt shóisialta agus chultúrtha nuair a thugann muid spreagadh don chruthaitheacht i measc ár bpobail agus nuair a chinntíonn muid go dtugtar léiriú cruthaitheach do gach duine idir óg agus aosta.As President, one of my main roles is to be a representative of the Irish people at home and abroad and I am conscious, in carrying out that role, that the community I represent now comprises people of many different national origins.Ireland has undergone a major demographic and social change over a very short period of time.  Between 2002 and 2006, the non-Irish born part of our population increased by almost 200,000, or 87%, to constitute over 10% of the population as enumerated in that year’s Census.  In 2006, people from 188 different countries were residing in Ireland and we are the richer for it. The initial results of the 2011 Census show an increase of almost 30% in the number of non-Irish born as compared with 2006.  As to our Irish born minority, of course, the census also show for example that the census also shows that the the number of Irish Travellers has increased by close to 32%.   Central Statistics Office (2012) This is Ireland – Highlights from Census 20ll, Part 1 Dublin: Government PublicationsIt is abundantly clear that Ireland has become a very diverse society and will remain so.  How we adapt to this change will determine and define our Irishness and the type of Ireland we become.Diversity is a source of richness and from genuine engagement with diverse voices innovative and original thinking can emerge.  For this to happen we must go beyond simply tolerating, acknowledging or accepting diversity, of course, and work for the kind of society where each citizen realise their unique potential and contribute meaningfully to society.  Recently I expressed my concern at the havoc wreaked in so many lives due to racism and intolerance of diversity.   The Economic and Social Research Institute has told us recently that in 2006 that 25% of black people said they have been racially abused or threatened; the Teachers Union of Ireland have reported that almost 50% of teacher witnessed racism in their classrooms.  Show Racism the Red Card (2012) at   With more than 2000 children in Traveller families deprived of basic facilities, I suggest that some of our most pernicious and debilitating covert and overt exclusionary attitudes are directed against Irish Travellers. Sociologist Michael McGreil, who has been studying and surveying Irish public attitudes for many decades now, has found that while Irish attitudes to other minority groups have improved over the past decades, discriminatory attitudes to Travellers continue and remain stubbornly resistant to change.  Racism can express itself openly in verbal assaults and in racist attacks of course but also through the policies and services of our institutions when they fail to accommodate and respond appropriately to the needs of a particular section of a population.  We know, for instance that our education system of old has not, in general, served Traveller children well: 77% of Traveller children have no qualification beyond Primary School, compared to a national rate of 18.9%, and less than 4.1% of Travellers finish secondary school.  Pavee Point (2011) .These important indicators reveal a significant public policy failure and suggest an unacceptable level of intolerance that exists in our society, but they do not tell us of the human damage caused: the damage to dignity, self worth, and the damage done to a person’s sense of pride and identity.  This is why the work of all those who combat racism, and the work of all of you who have entered this competition – Show Racism the Red Card Creative Competition – is so important:  it seeks to embed respect for the value of each individual at the heart of our interactions, at the heart of our society.  We must all work together to create an Ireland in which diversity is genuinely celebrated and difference is not just tolerated but welcomed as the foundation of a just society, rich in creative potential.There is a special importance to initiatives that are addressed to occasions of collective behaviour such as sporting events.I admire very much the work of Show Racism the Red Card.  While  the organisation originated in Britain in 1995 West Ham United goalkeeper Shaka Hislop it is now present in United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland, where it is run by Garret Mullan. I am aware and proud of the fact that Galway United, of which I am President, was one of the first clubs to be involved in the Show Racism the Red Card when it was first established in Ireland in 2006 supported by such role models as Niall Quinnn, Dessie Farell and Curtis Fleming. The initial focus internationally was undoubtedly on soccer and soccer supporters and participants can be proud of this,  now people from a wide range of other sports are engaged in your work, in this important message.  I want to compliment the sports people who give their time and lend their name to your work and, also, all of their representative associations.  I am particularly impressed that Show Racism the Red Card in Ireland has produced some exciting educational materials – fact sheets, DVDs and information and activity packs – for schools and youth centres. The organisation also runs an annual summer camp. All of this is important and I believe, the results are already evident from my conversations with young people.  The theme of Show Racism the Red Card is, in a general way, sports-related and it is in sport that the some of the most worrying manifestations of racism are very often observed, whether on the field of play or on the part of supporters.It is gratifying is that governing bodies, including for instance the F.A.I., and also others including the GAA, Basketball Ireland and the IRFU have all taken steps to develop policies and programmes to promote diversity and combat racism in their respective sports.  Such policy frameworks are a critical component in combating institutional racism and ensuring that players and spectators alike know that racism will not be tolerated.It is so important that our efforts to promote diversity and to combat racism engage young minds, and that our schools and youth clubs become places where different cultures are celebrated not feared. This is why this Show Racism the Red Card is so valuable.    It is open to all primary and secondary schools, Youthreach and youth services.I understand that participation has grown to 120 schools and youth services compared to 62 in the first Competition two years ago.  The evaluation that was done of last year’s Competition shows it has had positive impacts.  Among these are that the Competition enables participants to understand when racism is occurring and to take practical steps against it.  It also helps participants to reflect on their own attitudes towards diversity and to become more conscious and self aware of their values, beliefs and behaviours.Chomh maith leis sin creidim go mbaineann gné oideachais agus forbartha leis an gcomórtas cruthaitheach Show Racism the Red Card athéann níos faide ná ceist an chiníochais. Tugtar deis dóibh siúd a ghlacann páirt sa chomórtas dul i ngleic lena gcruthaitheacht féin agus leis na rudaí a thugann spreagadh dóibh. Ní mór dóibh ansin smaoineamh a dhéanamh ar an tslí gur féidir leo an spreagadh seo a chur in iúl agus é a roinnt le daoine eile go praiticiúil.In addition, by participating in the competition each of the young artists must set out and work towards goals; thus, by working in groups, participants get an opportunity to further develop important life skills of team working, leadership and communication.  Participants deepen their understanding of interpersonal relationships and the value of the imaginative and unique contribution of other human beings, which is at the heart of an inclusive society.It was a pleasure for me to meet some of the entrants just now and to see the various exhibits.  I appreciate the work that you all have put into the Competition and the contribution of parents, teachers and youth leaders in supporting the development of each exhibit and the organisation of the project.    Ba chúis áthais dom bualadh le cuid de na daoine atá ag glacadh páirte sa chomórtas agus súil a chaitheamh ar na taispeántáin éagsúla. Táim buíoch as an obair a rinne sibh don Chomórtas agus as an obair a rinne na tuismitheoirí, na múinteoirí agus na daoine a oibríonn leis na daoine óga seo maidir le tacaíocht a chur ar fáil d’fhorbairt gach taispeántán agus d’eagrú an togra.I congratulate you all, not just the prize winners, who will be announced later and believe that by participating in this competition you have contributed in a fundamental way to bringing about a kind of Ireland that you will be proud of, a kind of Ireland rich with ideas, creativity, and resilience due to the strength derived from diversity.  This is a benefit that will go on in your lives, whatever the outcome of the Competition.It remains for me to thank Garret Mullan and all who assist him with this Competition, those who judged the entries, sponsored prizes or were otherwise associated with this event, which is one more contribution to the important goal of an inclusive society.

This entry was posted in News/ Comment. Bookmark the permalink.