‘It’s like a trip around the world’: Dublin festival celebrates a multicultural Ireland

This year’s Festival of Nations brings drums, dress and dancing to Mountjoy Square

 

“It’s like a trip around the world,” said Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe, as he moved from Tanzania to Moldova in just a few steps.

He was speaking halfway through a round of stalls set up by people from dozens of countries as part of the Festival of Nations in Dublin’s Mountjoy Square.

In warm end-of-summer sunshine, drums from across the world were hit hard and men, women and children wearing the national dress of more than 30 countries danced and celebrated Ireland’s multicultural present.

“The whole idea of this event is to bring people together to celebrate our diversity,” said Tanzanian native and festival director Carol Azams. “We set it up four years ago and at that first event we had just six countries taking part; now look around. There are so many people here.”

As she spoke the mayor nodded and took in the hundreds of people milling about in the square.

“I think this is an amazing event,” he told The Irish Times. “And one of the really good things about it is that it [brings] people together, and even if people from a particular country are only in Ireland in small numbers, it allows them to feel like they are part of something bigger.”

He said Dublin had always been a city of welcomes, going right back to the Vikings. “We even welcome Kerry people here,” he laughed.

Syrian stall

The mayor said he had been particularly struck by the people he had met at the Syrian stall.

“When I give tours of the Mansion House, I always draw people’s attention to the plaque marking what Choctaw Indians did for Ireland during the Famine, and I think Irish people know that the shoe can so easily be on the other foot.”

He said there was a growing fear among many people that “racism could be on the rise in this country, and we have to make sure that it doesn’t grow and we have to look after the people who come here, especially those who are escaping war and persecution”.

Catherine Keyya Murphy came to Ireland out of love, having met and married an Irish man in her native Tanzania almost 10 years ago. She has been in Ireland for nine years and is the deputy chairwoman of the Association of Tanzanians in Ireland.

She stood alone at a stall promoting the country of her birth. “I think an event like this is very important as it brings different cultures together and celebrates all of those cultures and helps Irish people to learn more about all of the people who have come here in recent years.”

The event had another purpose too, explained Brian Mongey of the North East Inner City Initiative. “It is also about bringing streets and public spaces back to life,” he said.

“There is just so much colour on display here today and I think this event shows what can be achieved in a space like this. I can’t think of anywhere better to celebrate diversity in Ireland than here in the northeast inner city and in Mountjoy Square, the centre of multiculturalism in Ireland.”