Hundreds stand at Fermoy rally against racism

More than 200 people took part in an anti-racism rally in a Cork city to highlight local support for refugees and asylum seekers.

The rally, organized by Fermoy and Mallow Against Racism (FAMAR), was staged in direct response to a protest by 70 people outside a refugee shelter in Fermoy last Wednesday.

FAMAR members and local people organized the solidarity rally today to show that North Cork is a welcoming place where all cultures are respected and refugees are treated with respect and dignity.

Fermoy residents were appalled by the anti-refugee protests that took place last Wednesday outside St Joseph’s Convent, which has been renovated and is now used as refugee accommodation.

70 people protested outside the complex as over 60 refugees arrived at the former monastery.

The group included 19 families, 25 children and eight single women.

Affected families are fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

There were no single young men in the group.

Locals were shocked to find that as they settled into their new makeshift shelter, the group of young children could hear the protesters and their megaphone in the street just outside – some shouting that they are being sent home should.

A woman leaving the St Joseph complex during the protests was loudly harassed by protesters.

Fermoy locals pointed out that many of the anti-refugee protesters were not from the city.

Some are said to have been involved in similar anti-refugee protests in Dublin and other counties.

It was decided to hold a rally to highlight local support for refugees, asylum seekers and multiculturalism, and to defend the city’s reputation as a welcoming, caring place.

Over 200 people took part in the rally in front of Christchurch, just above the city park.

It was attended by locals from Fermoy, Mallow, Mitchelstown, Kilworth, Rathcormac, Ballyhooly and Castletownroche – as well as business owners, volunteers and cultural groups to demonstrate the area’s welcoming nature.

Politicians including Cork East TDs Sean Sherlock and Pat Buckley also attended.

FAMAR organizer Kate O’Connell said the rally showed what Irish communities are really about.

“It’s time we all came together and showed what a caring place Fermoy really is and how we welcome those in need. The people who protested in front of St. Joseph do not speak for us,” she said.

Sanctuary Runners founder Graham Clifford said people from many different countries and cultures have made Irish towns like Fermoy their home – thereby enriching local communities.

Local Maggie Blackley said the anti-refugee protest only represents a tiny minority of Irish people and that the majority of locals want to distance themselves from it.

“This is a gathering of concerned residents to demonstrate that these people are not speaking for the majority,” she said.

“Fermoy is a wonderful city, it has been very welcoming and we want people to know that. Everyone on the ground was appalled by what happened during the week and we want to make it clear that these people do not speak for the majority here.”

“The overwhelming majority of people here are welcoming, caring and have a deep commitment to show solidarity with those fleeing war and persecution.”

Maggie and her husband Sandy have welcomed two Ukrainian women and their children into their home since the Russian invasion – and said it’s been an incredible experience.

A large number of families also attended the solidarity rally including Maggie and Polly Egerton and children Rowan, Ema, Toby and Andrey.

Local musician Mo O’Connor performed his own composition “Homeland”, written about the experiences of Mexican migrants in the United States.

Fermoy is host to a number of cultural groups and charities promoting inclusion and understanding, including the Fermoy International Choir, with members from over 30 countries, and the Sanctuary Runners.

A number of business owners in Fermoy said they were appalled by the anti-refugee protests and the negative image they painted of the town.

The Monastery of St Joseph – which has been the focus of a renovation campaign – issued a statement saying it welcomed its new guests.

It indicated that the people who arrived were fleeing conflict zones around the world.

The statement stressed that male guests arriving at St. Joseph were there solely as part of family units.

It pointed out that the majority of those who had arrived were women and children.

Fermoy has a number of Ukrainian families in the old Grand Hotel, as well as a separate church building.

Cork politicians also backed Saturday’s rally in support of a welcoming Ireland.

https://www.independent.ie/news/hundreds-stand-against-racism-at-fermoy-rally-42192947.html Hundreds stand at Fermoy rally against racism

Fry Electronics Team

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