Minister of State at the Dept of Justice & Law Reform, Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Aodhán O’Riordán TD, enjoying the music and dance from the IGBO Community Dance Group at St Patrick's Gateway.

Minister of State at the Dept of Justice & Law Reform, Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Aodhán O’Riordán TD, enjoying the music and dance from the IGBO Community Dance Group at St Patrick’s Gateway.

Waterford’s second Diversity Festival was launched last Wednesday in Waterford’s St Patrick’s Gateway, during which the city was declared Ireland’s second Sanctuary City, following in Dublin’s footsteps.
Aodhan O Riordan, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, praised the Waterford initiative and the four-day festival which ran in the city last week.
With the 1916 anniversary coming up, we should not just honour the men of 1916 but re evaluate the Republic and look at the new Ireland and make it more inclusive and have a conversation of where we want to go, he stated. The Minister also noted the marriage equality bill now in the Dáil as proof of a changing, more tolerant Ireland.
Back in the 1950s we had industrial schools, mental hospitals and single parent institutions where 200,000 were incarcerated, the Minister noted. Now we have immigrants in direct provision hostels and that needs to change, he added.

The local authority’s integration strategy was praised and the Diversity Festival was proof of the local commitment to embrace the ‘new Irish’, stating that Waterford’s development as a Sanctuary City was further proof of this.
City & County Mayor John Cummins spoke of the need for people to understand and build awareness of other cultures and ethnicities and that this integration strategy and
Festival was furthering that cause.
He praised the sanctuary city concept and the building of new networks and ventures across cities, including the Purple Flag initiative.

We need to respect culture and traditions, other religions and show a quality of dignity and respect, the Mayor added, noting that we can all improve on that front.
Colm O Gorman, director of Amnesty international spoke of his last visit to Waterford for the Equality Referendum and how he discussed the matter with an 83-year-old woman, “and how it had gotten a great conversation going in modern Ireland,” demonstrating generosity, engagement, decency and fairness. “It showed the best of what we are in terms of humanity and caring,” he said.
Ireland needs to embrace diversity more, overcome old prejudice and embrace new ideas. On the questions of the Syria refugee crisis, Mr O’Gorman reckoned the aid effort was being driven more by people than governments, and that ordinary people have driven state responses throughout the EU.
Tiffy Allen from Sheffield, the UK City of Sanctuary, where the movement all began loved the music and poetry at the Waterford event where Matt Tamen from Nigeria, shared poems about refugees, with titles such as ‘Names and Boxes’, ‘My Time is Real’ and ‘We are the People’.
There were also songs from the High Hopes Choir, who sang with great gusto and energy. There are now 40 Sanctuary Cities, mainly in the UK, along with three in Northern Ireland – Belfast, Derry and Coleraine, plus Dublin and Waterford in the Republic. Some 20 further cities in the UK alone signed up last week.
Ms Allen liked the inclusiveness of the Waterford project which is not just tied to race but also embraces other minorities, discussing disability and equality. “The world needs a revolution in this type of generosity”, she stated.Sahr Yambasu, the Co-Chair of Waterford City of Sanctuary, thanked all the committee in making this work
With assistance from the Gardaí and Pat Murphy, City & County Council staff, Brother Kevin, Orla O Neill Hayes, Ken McCormack, Louise Mann, Eoin O’Neill, Abdul Ahmed, Annette Dowling, Maria Ahern, Abdullah, Carmel Banville, Floribert Bongu, Dean Maria Jansson and Kieran Walsh, their journey had reached its destination.
“Join us on our ongoing journey as we imagine a new world”, he said. “And let us make Waterford a place of security, acceptance, peace and freedom for all.”