Optimism as migrants helped to integrate
The census finds some 40 per cent of the population of Tyrrelstown in west Dublin was born outside Ireland, writes Pamela Duncan
The physical education teacher gives the signal and the children scramble for their hurleys and helmets. As a group they are as diverse as a Benetton advertisement: children of Asian, African, Eastern European and Irish descent playing together in the sports hall shared by the Tyrrelstown Educate Together School and the newly opened community centre.
The electoral division which Tyrrelstown falls into is known as “The Ward”, the population of which has grown by almost 60 per cent to 8,241 in the past five years. The proportion of the population of the area born outside Ireland now stands at 40 per cent.
On the other side of the community hall a group of adults file out of their weekly English session. Fáilte Isteach is a nationwide community project with volunteers who help migrants by hosting conversational English sessions.
They are attended by people from China, Pakistan, Lithuania, Poland, Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, Spain, Moldova, India, Russia, Bangladesh.
They are here to improve their English and to help assimilate themselves into the culture of their adopted home, although some say they have found this easier than others.
Nazakat Begum, a Pakistani doctor who lives outside Tyrrelstown, says she and other nationalities in her neighbourhood have integrated well with each other, but that integration hasn’t been as easy with the Irish community.
“In my neighbourhood very few Irish people are living there because these areas are mainly for the different nationalities . . . they are mostly integrated with each other . . . but generally in our neighbourhoods when you go to [the secondary] school the Irish mothers are always talking with Irish mothers. They don’t talk to other nationalities,” she says.
However, as Ms Begum speaks, a young Indian mother, Rupa Chakraborty, who has lived in Tyrrelstown for six years, is shaking her head emphatically.
“My children study in Educate Together. The children are so much integrated together, the parents are so much integrated together,” she says.
“I have no problems. The people are very friendly in Ireland.”
One of the Irish volunteers leading the group is Breda Heron who has lived in Tyrrelstown since 2004 having moved there from Artane and is head of social inclusion, a subcommittee of the local residents’ association.
“They only started building here around 2000. My daughter moved here in 2002 and she was one of the first. It’s very new,” she says.
Most of Tyrrelstown, an area which has only sprung up in the past decade, is still new enough to feel like an architect’s model of a modern town.
This young community was hit by a high-profile tragedy in 2010 when 15-year-old Toyosi Shittabey died following a knife attack near his home.
At the time, the media focused on whether integration was working in Tyrrelstown, an area which had previously been lauded as a model of ethnic diversity. However, locals feel this was a tragic, but isolated incident.
Ms Heron and other volunteers with Fáilte Isteach are optimistic for the future of the area and have been buoyed by the recent opening of the community centre and other community-building initiatives.
“I am very positive for the area – there is plenty of goodwill around. Harnessing it is something which can be difficult at times but now we have the community centre the more it will develop and the better it will be.”
Asked why she volunteered for the position of social inclusion officer Ms Heron replies: “For various reasons, not all of them altruistic, we have got to make it work. It’s very important to make it work for all our sakes.”
Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri is the founder and Imam of the Islamic centre in Coolmine, Blanchardstown, a 15-minute drive from Tyrrelstown.
The mosque, one of three in the area, has 400 registered members who come from a wide range of backgrounds: Mr Al-Qadri estimates that 50 to 60 per cent of those are African, about 30 per cent are of Indian, Pakistani or Bengali backgrounds and the rest are Arab. “Personally I think the communities are integrating well in Ireland but we do face challenges,” he says.
He says he had been asked the previous week by “four different people . . . to come to their house for a blessing”. He was shocked to find that the social housing allocated to these families “were all in the same housing scheme, all in the same area . . . When I asked about their neighbours I was told they were from the same background,” he says.
“It is a great opportunity for these people to move to new houses but the problem we could face in future is that we see a ghetto kind of an area.”
However, a spokeswoman for Fingal County Council said the local authority’s aim is to foster integration in the area.
“Fingal County Council is fully committed to implementing new initiatives and sustaining existing, successful projects that foster and develop integration throughout the new communities in Fingal, and in Dublin 15. The most recent application by Fingal County Council, to the Office of the Minister for Integration, for funding to promote this integration of legal non-Irish nationals in Fingal is a clear statement of our commitment to deliver this,” she says.