A Wider Remit in Waterford

When I arrived in Waterford in July 2014, I met on my desk a list of things I could do. One of them was the Waterford Diversity Festival scheduled for September of that year. I decided that St. Patrick’s Methodist Church should take part by organizing an event. Some years back I had heard about the City of Sanctuary Movement from its founder who came to speak at our Methodist annual Global Vision event in Portlaoise. I thought it would be good to invite him to come and share the thinking behind the City of Sanctuary Movement with us. To cut a long story short, Rev. Dr. Bhogal came and addressed a large group of people in St. Patrick Church that September. The energy there that night was such that it was decided the City of Sanctuary Movement is something Waterford should consider getting involved with.

At least two further meetings with representatives of Waterford community groups and interested individuals were held. As a result of those meetings a Steering Committee was put in place to help nurture, guide and develop the City of Sanctuary Waterford Movement.

While the Committee was aware that Waterford had and will continue to have asylum seekers & refugees, we were of the mind that for the City and County of Waterford to become a Place of Sanctuary, everyone would need to experience a sense welcome, hospitality, respect, safety, and security.

This, in effect, was a recognition by the Committee that there is ‘a stranger’ in each person and group that other people find difficult to welcome and respect. We live lives that are foreign and strange to those who are not us. That is why we decided to set ourselves the goal to work to make Waterford City and County a Place of Sanctuary for all ‘strangers’ – you and I included. We believe that when we all feel safe and secure in each others company, we will give hospitality and respect to and receive the same from each other freely without fear and favour.

September 2014 – October 2016

The following is simply a list of things we have achieved from September 2014 to date.

  • Well attended, energised meetings held with representatives of community groups in the city and county
  • A Steering Committee put together as I mentioned earlier, and most of them are here.
  • A TUS worker – Orla O’Neill Hayes – was hired as an administrator for about 8 months
  • An event was held outside the Church of Ireland Cathedral to highlight the plight of migrants dying at sea trying to come into Europe, especially remembering those who had died at sea. Balloon were released into the air at that event.
  • A brochure of information about the Movement of Sanctuary in Waterford was put together and printed for distribution
  • A Draft Constitution has been put together which we would asking members to adopt
  • A bank account has been opened
  • We have got Community Groups to indicate there interest in the Movement by registering with Place of Sanctuary and to date we have about 25 groups plus an additional number of individuals registered
  • The Movement was launched along with The Diversity Festival at a very successful launching event in September last year. Since that Launch, The Diversity Committee has become a sub-Committee of Place of Sanctuary
  • A Housing Sub-committee has been set up to look at ways of helping people in Direct Provision access housing when they have been given residency in the country.
  • A Fundraising Walk for seed funding towards housing needs has taken place
  • A Sanctuary in Politics Training has been completed with 22 refugees and migrants taking part and a group called New Ireland Forum has been set up as a result
  • A very successful Seminar on Human Rights was organized just a few weeks ago by The Diversity Sub-Committee in St. Patricks Gateway Centre
  • Recently, we have been able to access funding for another Sanctuary in Politics Training, a mental Health Workshop, Sanctuary in Governance, and Paths to Citizenship Training
  • Finally, just last week, we have got an administrator in the person of Mrs. Tina

Eguchie. Tina has been appointed to this job for six months after which we will review the situation. She is here today and, on behalf of all of us, I will like to warmly welcome her.

Tina comes to us with many strengths, among which is her commitment to the principles of Place of Sanctuary, Waterford. She and her family live in Waterford.

Thanks

Let me at this point also sincerely thank Orla O’Neill Hayes who worked very hard as our administrator some months back. She helped us a lot along the way to where we are now.

Sincere thanks to the Steering Committee for their continued support over the last two years.

Thank you all for being here today.