Check Against Delivery
13 June 2017
I am delighted to welcome you all to this event to mark the award of grants under the Communities Integration Fund.
I launched this fund of €500,000 back in February because I wanted to support local communities all over Ireland in their efforts to promote the integration of migrants. I firmly believe that local community actions are key to integration. Small things can make a big difference. Whether it’s setting up a programme to encourage young people from migrant backgrounds to get involved in local sports clubs; establishing a parent and toddler group that reaches out to migrant families; or organising a once off event that brings people from different communities together to celebrate our diverse cultures – these types of initiatives can make a really important contribution to someone’s lived experience as a migrant here and can boost their chances of successful integration.
Integration is a two-way process. It benefits not only migrants who have chosen to make their homes here, but also the host communities amongst whom they live. We in Ireland are capable of being fantastically welcoming. And when communities come together to express that welcome, the results can be genuinely inspiring. Some of you may recall the Special Olympics World Summer Games, which were hosted in Ireland in the summer of 2003. Participants in those games came from all over the world, and stayed in towns and villages throughout Ireland. It was remarkable to see the way that communities across the country stepped up and played their part to welcome the visitors.
When I launched the Communities Integration Fund, I did so in the hope of tapping into some of that community spirit. And I was delighted by the response. We received 300 applications from all over the country, of which 129 projects were selected for funding. Each project will receive a once-off grant of up to €5,000. There is great diversity and innovation amongst the projects. To give a flavour of what I mean, let me give you just a few examples.
Meitheal Mara in Cork City will run a project for a group of teenagers drawn equally from the local community and from the local asylum-seeker accommodation centre. Over 6 weeks the young people will have the opportunity to learn to row in traditional Irish currachs on the River Lee.
In Portumna, County Galway, the Irish Workhouse Centre’s Heritage Week will this year include a Polish Culture Day. This will provide opportunities to learn about Polish culture and history, and to enjoy some Polish music and cuisine.
Here in Dublin, Tallaght Community Arts will run a summer arts project with 20 migrant adults and their children using visual arts design to complement spoken and written work, in both English and their mother tongue.
O’Connell Secondary School here in central Dublin will run a six-week Summer School programme for boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 16, who want to learn English as an additional language during the summer. This school has pupils from 31 different countries making up 45% of the student body. I am delighted that we are joined by the Principal, and a member of the student body who will shortly share some of his experience with us.
These are just a few examples from a total of 129 projects nationwide. The Fund will also support local anti-racism initiatives; youth and family resources; schools based integration projects; local supports for newly arrived migrants, and many more.
Integration is a complex process and requires a broad range of policy responses in addition to funding supports. Together with the Tánaiste, I was proud to launch our new comprehensive Migrant Integration Strategy earlier this year. This will guide our work on integration over the next four years. In support of our strategic objectives, we have both National and European Union multi-annual funding programmes, under which we fund a broad range of national and regional projects.
The Communities Integration Fund allows us to complement these supports with assistance for small-scale local activities. I am particularly pleased to be able to support this type of work. As I said to begin with – I believe that community efforts are vital to successful integration. It is in our communities after all that we really learn to live together.
I wish all of the projects every success. Go n’eirí an bóthar libh.