An anti-racist, anti-sectarian project involving young adults from Donemana, Castlederg, Rosemount, Foyle Springs and the Waterside underwent a remarkable transformation over the winter with participants quickly establishing: ‘You don’t have to teach us to be friends, we’re that already, what we want are jobs, a local university and an end to the emigration brain drain.’
The group, which included teenagers from the local Filipino and Indian communities, were largely unanimous in that sectarianism and racism are less of an issue for them than for older generations and that they are more concerned about economic prospects.
In a presentation delivered at the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities Londonderry office, Howell, from the Filipino Kabalikat community, said that there were concerns about “increasing racist attitudes (not necessarily among young people but their older family members), particularly since the latest refugee ‘crisis’” but these were listed alongside identity-neutral concerns about legal highs and anti-social behaviour among other issues.
Significantly, however, he said: “Above all, our main issue is the lack of local employment opportunities for young people, the lack of a local university and the huge number of young people who are emigrating for education and work and not returning.”
Another contributor, Raviena, said: “Our generation is already much more multicultural than ever before in Derry and we see this as a positive thing.
“Sectarianism and racism are not our issues anymore and we don’t see these issues and identify the way that our parents did - we need to begin to develop facilities and programmes that reflect this and that are open to our whole community.”
This was reiterated by Frankie, who concluded the presentation.
“As Raviena said, Derry is quickly becoming much more multicultural and diverse and our generation doesn’t think about identity the same way older generations from Derry did. That’s why what started as a good relations project quickly became a policy project.
“We learned very quickly that sectarianism and tribal politics, racism and issues that divide us were not a problem for us in the same way that they have been for people from Derry and Strabane who grew up during the conflict or even for our parents who grew up during the conflict or even our parents who moved here from other countries.
“You wouldn’t know it to look at me or here my accent, but I’m one of an increasing number of young people from Derry who has at least one parent who wasn’t born here and doesn’t identify as Irish or British and isn’t Christian.
“I will get the vote next year for the first time but there isn’t a party that reflects my views currently.”