THE ETHICAL CHALLENGES OF INTERCULTURAL DIVERSITY IN IRELAND
This year will be the Fourth Annual Intercultural Writers Contest. Each year, newcomers and native Irish youth submit poetry and prose on the ethical challenges of intercultural diversity in Ireland. Jointly organized by Metro Éireann and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the contest draws submissions from across the country. I have spent my first week here helping Santiago Gonzalez-Boneta publicize this contest.
Ireland, Dublin especially, is increasingly diverse. More than 20% of Dublin residents were born outside of Ireland, this represents more than a 50% increase in single decade. With this fact and the contest in mind, I have spent much of my time in Dublin reflecting on the theme of the writers competition. Drawing both from my own first impressions and conversations with others, I’m not sure yet what the most salient ethical challenges are posed by this diversity. But it does have me wondering whether diversity should always be considered a good thing? Does diversity alone make for an intercultural city?
Ireland is diverse along many dimensions: race, culture, politics, etc. And yet, people often say that diversity is a shared value and shared good. Diversity benefits all. Integration, it is often assumed, will be simple. But at first glance, Dublin, like other cities, has traces of self-segregation. Is this a problem? The Northside of Dublin is sprinkled with ethnic shops and restaurants catering to Vietnamese, Brazilians, Poles, and other newcomers. But are they frequented only by newcomers or are they becoming integrated into the lives of native born Dubliners as well? Does it matter? Do Irish shop at the Brazilian shops? Do Brazilians eat at the Vietnamese restaurant? Do Vietnamese buy sweets at the Polish bakery? My initial impressions suggests that these shops primarily serve a single nationality, but I can’t say for sure. Nor can I say if that is necessarily a bad thing? And if so, who is it bad for?
Metro Éireann is Ireland’s only multicultural newspaper. It is the herculean effort of its editor and principle writer, Nigerian immigrant Chinedu Onyejelem. The newspaper has long heralded the successes of newcomers to Ireland, but it has also shed light on the considerable challenges to life in Ireland for newcomers. The paper tries to humanize the statistical patterns. For Chinedu, integration requires mutual respect and understanding; it is a a two-way street. Immigrants adapt to Ireland but Ireland also adapts. Diageo, the parent company of the world-famous Guinness Stout, recently sponsored a well-publicized training program for young adult refugees. And some refugee youth are eager to play Gaelic sports.
Part of the task is helping the Irish understand the experience of newcomers. Toward this end, Dublin City Council and a local photography gallery are planning exhibits and workshops on borders and migration—including collecting and displaying family albums from across the newcomer communities. Initiatives like this, as well as the writing contest, are opportunities for native-born and newcomer Irish to forge a new way forward.
In the coming months, youth across Ireland will be using their imaginations to craft stories and poems about the ethics of intercultural diversity in Ireland. Through these stories, the young people will reflect on intercultural sensitivity. This topic is of seminal importance in Chinedu’s mission for two-way respect and understanding. More important than my views on the intercultural sensitivity in Ireland are those of the young people who are living here. These are the ones who get to decide the future of Ireland’s people together. Together with Metro Éireann and projects like this writing contest, Irish and newcomers can together explore the opportunities diversity will offer and forge a way forward.