Ireland’s Network currently comprises 60 member organisations with a good geographical spread. Broadly speaking they can be classified as arts organizations, educational establishments, youth organizations, interfaith organizations and organizations promoting peace and reconciliation.
The first Head of the Irish Network, Dublin City University, Centre for International Relations, was appointed by the Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs. The network was established from 2005 onwards. In 2010 the members elected their own Head and have done so since then. Triskel Arts Centre, based in Cork, was elected. Triskel’s mandate was endorsed at every subsequent election when they ran unopposed. It was agreed in 2019 that the Network will be coordinated by 2 co-Heads: the Triskel Arts Centre, and the Chester Beatty Dublin.
Traditionally Ireland was a very homogeneous society.
While emigration has always been a part of Irish life, Ireland has in recent years become a destination for immigrants. Currently the percentage of non-nationals living in Ireland is approximately 12% of the population.
Furthermore, according to the Central Statistics office, in the twenty-five years between 1991 and 2016 there have been significant increases in the non-Catholic population, driven by not only growing numbers with no religion but by increases also in other religions.
The changing face of Ireland and indeed Europe has brought about much discussion and debates about the concept of ethnic and religious identity. Models of integration and inclusion are presented in all kinds of social platforms by a multitude of NGOs and Human Rights organisations in order to reduce hate crimes that are no longer invisible as Islamophobia and antisemitism are in the rise. To address this situation, a great deal of work is done also through organised grassroots movements such as Intercultural Dialogue Steering Groups creating cities and universities following the framework of sanctuary projects.
Government funding has been made to raise awareness around marginalisation and exclusion and to promote dialogue. Workshops in intercultural competences are being given to established teachers but also to future primary and secondary teachers who now have new modules in intercultural dialogue. Arts centres, universities, schools and institutions open their doors by creating projects to increase participation and ownership of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In that same spirit, state agencies incorporate trauma informed and responsive attitude with a focus on dialogue to promote tolerance and to enlarge perspectives, promoting equality as important aspects to organisational culture.
As Ireland embarks in rather tumultuous waters with uncertainties regarding in particular Brexit and the results of its own recent elections (Feb 2020), the concern is that the myriad of activities involving intercultural dialogue might lose the focus of stakeholders and consequently experience a reduction in badly needed funding.