Tuesday, 25 October 2011

City of tribes and diversity: Galway adopts intercultural strategy

Latin American, Muslim, Asian, African and eastern European communities have all signed up to the strategy, which was initiated by Galway Mayor Hildegarde Naughton yesterday.

Almost one-fifth of the population is classified as “non-Irish”, and Galway was the first Irish city to adopt an anti-racism strategy, Ms Naughton noted when she endorsed the project.

City authorities have no direct remit in improving the living conditions of asylum seekers – some of whom held recent protests – but the strategy’s “intercultural forum” should give this sector an opportunity to state their case, she said.

She hopes to develop an “ambassador of interculturalism” role, and has given a commitment to support the strategy’s actions.

Called “Galway – a city of equals”, the strategy is supported by Galway City Council and the city development board, and includes a one-off grant scheme of €15,000 which groups can apply for a slice of.

It has five “pillars”, namely promoting the city, living together, delivering services, rejecting racism and building an “intercultural economy”.

By introducing a concept which highlights the advantages of diversity, the new strategy acknowledges the influence of British planning consultant Charles Landry who visited in 2008 and challenged the city to “re-imagine itself”.

Liam Hanrahan of Galway City Council noted that Galway’s “non-Irish” population had grown by 9 per cent between 2002 and 2006, and there had been only marginal changes in population levels in a snapshot of the most recent census.

Galway already has the “most diverse, artistic and welcoming image” of any city in Ireland, but structures and leadership have to be put in place to ensure it becomes a “city of equals”, the strategy says.

A full action plan is currently being developed that will link services, groups, communities and agencies.

The city’s refugee support group, the Galway Traveller Movement and the city partnership, along with the Garda Síochána, are among the groups supporting the initiative.

Galway is currently hosting social inclusion week, which features workshops, sporting events, exhibitions and seminars.

Irish Times

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