By Rosemary Adaser, founder and CEO of The Association of Mixed-Race Irish
2019 is an important year of anniversaries for Ireland. Our people and country are still struggling to come to terms with the revelations twenty years ago of abuse in Irish institutions which led to the 1999 apology by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on behalf of the Irish State, and then the catalogue of horrors published ten years ago in the 2009 Ryan Report.
2019 is also the year that the Irish government will be reviewed by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – but racism in the Irish institutional ‘care’ system is rarely spoken about. It’s time for this to change.
Mixed Race Irish started as a campaign group in 2013 seeking to highlight historic wrongs visited upon mixed race Irish children, now adults, accommodated in Ireland’s Mother and Baby Home, Industrial Schools and Magdalene Laundries from the 1940s to the 1980s.
Over time our membership has grown and we realised there was a need to be more representative of a growing community of mixed race Irish, their families and friends back home in Ireland, the United Kingdom and globally.
This led to the formation of The Association of Mixed Race Irish (AMRI), a formally constituted voluntary organisation with a Board of Trustees.
We are one of the oldest communities of African and Irish descent since the formation of the Irish State in 1922 and a proud member of the Irish in Britain national membership network.
I have always maintained that the Irish communities in Britain have long memories of the racism visited upon them. Who will ever forget the signs of ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’.
Our fundamental aim is to raise awareness of issues adversely affecting people of mixed race Irish backgrounds and to ensure equity of treatment for this minority ethnic community at home and abroad.
It was through our lobbying efforts that race was included in the terms of reference for the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation which is currently underway.
That was the first time that ‘race’ was included as part of any statutory enquiry in Ireland.
We are represented by Conrad Bryan and Rosemary Adaser on the Collaborative Forum set up by Ireland’s Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone, which seeks to find innovative solutions to the trauma of Mother and Baby Homes from the community of survivors of those homes.
We are off to Geneva in December, to give evidence at the United Nations Committee for the Elimination for Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) where the Ireland will answer to this important UN Committee as to how it is doing in meeting its obligations to continue to develop good race relations on the Island of Ireland.
You may ask why we feel the need to go to the UN.
The answer is we must go because the reality is that the Irish State refuses to look into the historic human rights abuses and racism within the Irish ‘care’ system which continue to impact our aging community at the intergenerational level to this day.
Many readers here will remember that the Ryan Report of 2009 relating to institutions for the care of children in Ireland exposed many incidents of racial abuse and discrimination but it failed to address this as a separate form of abuse.
When the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen apologised for what he described as “The darkest corner of the history of the State”, we did not feel included. We felt hurt by our exclusion.
In October 2014, our members provided testimony about racial abuse in institutions to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.
Nothing happened and no actions came out of this parliamentary committee.
In January 2018, the draft version of Ireland’s State Report to the UN CERD committee was released for public consultation by the Irish Department of Justice.
There was no mention of our case.
We wrote and asked again for recognition of historic racism in Irish Mother and Baby Homes, Industrial Schools and Magdalene Laundries.
We asked for the State Report to acknowledge that racial discrimination is part of the Terms of Reference for the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.
What happened? Once again, we were ignored.
Because official Ireland will not tell the story of human rights abuses and racist discrimination we must to go Geneva ourselves to tell our story.
We are an unfunded organisation and Geneva is an expensive city to visit.
We have launched a crowd funder campaign to raise the £4,000 needed to cover the costs of sending our representatives from the UK and Ireland to address the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in December.
If you would like to help us tell our story to the UN, find out more about us, or if we can work with you, please do not hesitate to contact us on email via [email protected], on Twitter at @MixedRaceIrish, or on Facebook Mixed Race Irish – Association or our gofundme page.
Thank you for reading and for your support.