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Lord Mayor of Dublin speaks of isolation felt in growing up Protestant near Border

‘Lack of understanding of faith and culture gives rise to fear,’ Gilliland tells forum

Patsy McGarry

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, pictured at the National Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration Service which she said was a reminder of the collective responsibility to reject hate speech. Photograph: Tom Honan for The Irish Times

Dublin Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland has recalled a ‘them and us’ mentality which prevailed during her childhood growing up Protestant near the Border during the Troubles in the 1970s and 80s. There were “very few opportunities to mix”, she said.

“Lack of understanding of faith and culture gives rise to fear and fear can make us insular and defensive often manifesting itself in acts of intolerance, acts of race-based harassment, bullying, damage to property and violence, acts of discrimination and acts of exclusion,” she said.

Such “biased acts damage communities, damage social and civic cohesion and damage our prosperity,” she said.

The Lord Mayor was speaking in Dublin at an online event marking the 10th anniversary of the Dublin City Interfaith Forum (Dcif) which represents the capital’s increasingly diverse religions and belief systems.

Referring to last Sunday’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration at the Mansion House, she said it was an occasion when people were reminded of their collective responsibility to reject hate speech and to understand and uphold the rights of others to dignity.

Ireland, she said, had a relatively short history of cultural diversity, dating mostly from the Celtic Tiger era when our communities became “more diverse and varied and more beautiful and colourful in every sense of the word”. But there continued to be challenges for new arrivals in Ireland, she said.

Dcif “in partnership with Dublin City Council can play a key role in preventing this social damage. We both share a strong vision of a fully integrated city that promotes respect for, acceptance of and inclusion of diversity of faith, belief, nationality and culture of all those who choose to live, work and recreate in our city,” she said.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman said that “faith and policing working together galvanises people and makes a real difference in local communities.”

She continued: “Your assistance and advice to me and the team in the Garda National Diversity Unit is very welcome. No one organisation has all the answers and by working together, sharing experiences, we can work to make our communities safer.”

An Garda Síochána would start a recruitment campaign soon, she said, and she encouraged faith representatives to highlight this amongst their members.

New Dcif chair, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson, thanked participants and said “you have given us body and strength in the work of diversity.”

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