It was a great pleasure to represent Irish in Britain on Friday, at a round table discussion with Minister Colm Brophy and colleagues, on the issues facing the Irish youth and those of Irish heritage in Britain.
Joined by some key organisations from different parts of the country, and representatives from the Embassy, we heard of the impressive ongoing frontline work that groups are doing to support and engage younger Irish people.
Projects and services such as the following, are but a few examples of the areas of work that organisations are doing, supported by the Emigrant Support Programme:
Employment and training schemes
Work with Schools, Social Services and Local Government
Representation and advocacy
Culturally specific counselling and talking therapies
A wider discussion was had about defining and serving the emerging needs of the younger Irish community in Britain. There was regonition that some services for Irish people in this country were set up to largely serve older members of the community.
We explored and shared ideas around heritage, intergenerational relationships and what it means to have a collective Irish identity. This included talks about the reverse diaspora of people who have lived, studied, or worked in Ireland before returning to Britain, as well as the affinity diaspora.
We heard the invaluable voice of IamIrish offering insight into uncovering a more diverse representation of the Irish identity. The discussion explored perceptions of colour and identity in Irishness, the black Irish experience and the collective mixed-race experience of Irishness and how this intersects with the Irish youth in Britain.
Southwark Traveller’s Action Group was part of the discussion and brought to the forefront why Gypsy and Traveller community voices are integral to the conversation of Irish identity and the Irish youth in Britain. We discussed the importance of both celebrating the unique culture and history of Gypsies and Travellers, while also identifying a shared heritage and experience of being part of the Irish abroad and how this shapes identities throughout generations.
It was inspiring to hear the Minister’s and Irish Government’s commitment, which forms part of the Diaspora Strategy, to increase outreach to traditionally underrepresented groups such as Irish Travellers and Irish of mixed heritage among the diaspora, and how, through initiatives designed to promote inclusiveness, recognising the need to sustain and renew a meaningful connection with being Irish, this will reach the Irish youth in Britain.
‘There is more that unites us than divides us.’