Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Can we learn from GB's experience of multiculturalism in Northern Ireland?

In yesterday's Belfast Telegraph I asked whether the current debate in Great Britain includes lessons for a region just starting out on its experience of racial diversity.  Pop over to the BT to read the full article.

In Northern Ireland, we're late-starters on the politics of race. That could actually be an advantage. There's an opportunity to learn from experiences elsewhere. 
If we get it right, we can enjoy the cultural richness diversity brings, while also making newer arrivals feel integrated and at home. 
To date, we've had few high-profile racist incidents in Northern Ireland. Only the attacks on Roma during the summer of 2009 were serious enough to command attention outside the province. 
There's no indication that casual racism, or occasional outbursts of violence, are set to harden into a mood for far-right politics any time soon. 
If the BNP decides to field council candidates in Northern Ireland, it's likely to get short shrift. 
For the time being, we're far more preoccupied with traditional prejudices. But as society becomes more diverse, there is a risk that it will become even more segregated.
The Executive's failure to combat existing home-grown divisions hardly inspires confidence that it will know how to respond.

3 comments:

Timothy Belmont said...

My friends from Harrow are always reminding me of the absence - or lack - of black people in Northern Ireland, which is in their perception.

Seymour Major said...

Before people decide what they might learn from the experience of others, they have to decide what their objectives are.

Unfortunately, if you asked the man in the Belfast street, what they wanted to learn from British experience, he would be likely to reply that he would want to know the best way to keep blacks out.

Such a person would not be interested in enriching their own lives by sampling other cultures. That fits in with their general desire to remain in their sectarian boxes.

Sectarianism and racisim are similar in that people identify with groups and form conflicts with other groups. But Northern Ireland's problems are much more complex. Politics is bound up with the problem.

So lets keep the breaking down of sectarianism the number one priority. Once that problem is cracked, you will dilute the tendency of people to be prejudiced for any reason and dealing with racism will be relatively easy.

Chekov said...

if you asked the man in the Belfast street, what they wanted to learn from British experience, he would be likely to reply that he would want to know the best way to keep blacks out.

A rather sweeping and unpleasant statement.