New Integration initiative to be piloted in Cahir before going national· Aim is to promote and enable greater integration in Irish towns and communities through positive local action· Almost 30 percent of the population of Cahir is made up of people with non-Irish nationalities according to last census.· Public Meeting scheduled in Cahir for October 1stTogether Ireland is a not-for-profit initiative, supported by the TOMAR Trust, designed to promote and enable greater integration across Irish towns.In the absence of a national integration plan we aim to work with local communities to bring people together for the benefit of all. This can be done through sport, music, community initiatives, business and a wide variety of other routes.We will be piloting our initiative in three towns - Cahir, Fermoy and Mitchelstown and already have engaged in a consultative process with people and groups in these towns identifying the barriers to integration, the levels of desire for greater inclusivity and the possibilities that could be created to make even stronger and more cohesive towns.Together Ireland is led by Graham Clifford, a freelance feature writer and broadcaster who works mainly with the Irish Times and the RTÉ Radio 1 Drivetime Programme.Its anticipated that once the pilot phase has been completed Together Ireland will connect with other towns across Ireland.Graham Clifford said: “Integrated towns tend to be ones where local businesses prosper, sports teams have a wider pool of players to recruit from, there are more community initiatives and a greater sense of safety and town loyalty. Knowing your neighbour is as important as ever. Cahir, with just over 1,000 non-Irish people living in it, has an amazing opportunity to harness the potential of those who have moved to the town in recent years. Working closely together it could become an example of successful integration for other towns to follow. We know of so many different nationalities living and working in the town and surrounding area including almost a sizeable Polish and Egyptian grouping. In many ways towns like Cahir already have a layer of integration but we believe this can be strengthened to the benefit of all.” “When we look at other parts of the world, including the UK and France, we see that there are right ways and wrong ways to tackle integration. Its important that Ireland is proactive rather than reactive in this regard. We pride ourselves on being a welcoming nation but we don't have a history of inward migration and, understandably. have taken time to adapt to it,” said Clifford.He continued: “But integration is a two-way street. And key to that is language. One of the key things we want to find out is why many non-Irish people decide not to learn English and what barriers prevent them from doing this. Without the ability to communicate clearly the chances of integration for an individual greatly diminish.”As part of the pilot programme Together Ireland hope to work with transition year students in Cahir.“We hope to take a group of transition students and make them ‘youth researchers' focussing on attitudes to integration nationally and locally. We have been speaking with lecturers in the Department of Government at UCC about how some behaviour and attitude polling could be done in the town. The students, we hope, will carry out the polling and collate the information. It's a great opportunity to encourage young people into a form of civic action and research and will get them to think about the diversity that exists in the towns in which they live.”A new website which is being developed will feature the stories, pictures and videos of local initiatives in Fermoy, Mitchelstown and Cahir aimed at promoting greater integration.The first Together Ireland public meeting will take place in Cahir on Monday, October 1st at 7:30pm in the Cahir House Hotel.“Initially we will set out our vision in each town and just get people to start thinking of ways they could do little, achievable things to promote integration on a day-to-day basis. Everyone is welcome at our meetings including, and especially, those who have moved into Cahir and the South Tipperary region from others countries, UK to Brazil, Poland to China. With a theme of openness, friendliness and warmth to all I hope these meetings will start something so very positive. Something will which lead to great PR for the town and result in sustainable and achievable social change.”And grant funding will be available to each participating town which can be used on a community event, street party or initiative which celebrates the town's diversity.“From samba bands to soccer blitzes and world bake days, we believe inclusive events like this could really help bring the people of the town together no matter what passport they hold or first language they speak,” said Clifford.
To find out more email: TogetherIreland@gmail.com or find us on Twitter @2getherIreland.