When it comes to migration, I sense that Ireland has a completely different history than the UK.
Whereas the British sent their sons and daughters out to secure, expand and administer her Empire, the Irish legacy is one of Christian and humanitarian mission to the developing world. Crucially, however, this emerged from a background of direct emigration of large portions of her own population who were repeatedly forced to take desperate flight from poverty, famine and exploitation.
The enthusiasm and compassion demonstrated by native Irishmen and women at this conference persuaded me that there is an alternative culture alive and well on the island; one of genuine fellow-feeling with the latest wave of refugees.
A noteworthy aspect of the proceedings was the readiness with which sanctuary seekers, themselves, stepped forward to contribute their personal experiences. They told of arriving, fearful and alone, into this unheard-of small country at the farthest extremity of the European continent. However, they were also proud to tell how they are already putting back something tangible into those very Irish communities that welcomed them so warmly. Particularly inspiring to me were the stories of a Syrian and a Congolese group who were each striving to teach their own national languages, histories and culture not only to their own children but also to local people interested to learn more about their new neighbours.
Altogether, I felt privileged to feel welcomed, myself, into this new-born movement and to share its first flowering of cosy networking alongside the sharing of best practice. As the session concluded, it was agreed that this gathering would become an annual event from now onward.
I wish them all the luck in the world and look forward to being invited to join in again next year.