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There are two main reasons to respect the diversity of others these are:

1.It is unjust and unfair and can be illegal to treat people of minority groups differently or in a discriminatory way.

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2.It is important to realise that there are positive benefits to society when diversity is respected.

Valuing diversity can open our minds to new and exciting experiences and to new ways of thinking which can make our lives more interesting. Society can also benefit by respecting diversity, because by excluding minority groups we could miss their valuable contribution.

Northern Ireland in recent years has seen many different cultures coming for a better life or because we have not enough appropriately qualified people to fill some jobs this very evident in the healthcare sector were staff from the Philippines, India, Africa and Eastern Europe have been employed to overcome our staff shortages, our health service could have been threatened without their help. Many things have changed in Northern Ireland since we have had so many different cultures bringing many benefits, which I will discuss below.

Food:

Food in Northern Ireland was come a long way from the fish and chip era. Today Belfast has hundreds of restaurants, ranging from Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian and Mexican. This has come from people from different cultures and countries immigrating to Belfast for a better life. In Chinese restaurants for example, if you look in a menu there will be part of the menu in Chinese and the other part in English, this shows great progress in bringing two cultures together under one roof and doesn’t show discrimination against anyone.

Arts:

Belfast is home of one of the biggest arts festivals in the north, the Belfast Festival, which is now celebrating its 45th birthday. Belfast festival is a collaboration of different cultural taste in music, comedy, theatre, dance, visual arts and many more. This is a great way to educate people about different cultures, for example last year a performance by Jose Cura, a celebrated musical theatre company from South Africa and the world music ‘kings’ of “rumba flamenca”. Another famous yearly festival in belfast is the Belfast Film Festival, which gives the chance to young directors to show their films to a mass audience. “Each year a range of films, speakers and seminars focussing on a selected theme provides a platform for debate and engagement between diverse section of the audience”. http://www.belfastfilmfestival.org/2007/about

Education and Language:

The most obvious benefit of diversity in schools is the teaching of various languages such as, Irish, Spanish, Italian, Latin, French and German and in some schools Chinese. This is a great benefit to society as students studying these languages will be encourage to visit the countries and then bring back different cultural beliefs and ways of life to Belfast, it also shows other countries that they are welcome to visit Belfast. Another step towards diversity in our society is the establishment of Chinese schools in south Belfast – one in the holysland area and another on the Lisburn road in south Belfast.

At Our Lady and St.Patricks College Knock there is now a citizenship class each week for all pupils, which covers issues of equality and diversity, this is to be commended, as when I was at school this was not on the curriculum.

Tolerance

Tolerance – Acceptance of other people’s rights to their own opinions or actions. – (Collins English Dictionary)

A recent news story by the BBC in 2005 reported the increase in racial attacks in the Northern Ireland. The PSNI conducted a survey of racist attacks and hate crimes and has found that these attacks have rose by up to 300% in the last year.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4190514.stm

In my opinion without the input of different cultures introducing us to new foods, clothes, music, northern Ireland wouldn’t be were it is today. It saddens we when reading how people from different ethnic backgrounds are kicked out of their homes due to racist attacks, for example; on the 17th October 2003 muslin family were forced out of their home in the Craigavon area of Armagh, when a group of ‘yobs’ threw bricks at the families windows.

http://www.goacom.org/overseas-digest/Race%20(UK)/Race%20cases%202003/oct03.html

Reading of these attacks I was curious to find out just what the exact number of reported racist crimes where in Northern Ireland. I found statistics from 1997 to 2003 of reported racist crimes, which were;

* 1997 – 25 incidents

* 1998-99 – 97

* 1999-00 – 237

* 2000 -01 – 260

* 2001 – 02 – 185

* 2002 – 03 – 226

As you can see, there is a dramatic rise from 1997 – 2003, which shows that tolerance will not happen in Northern Ireland for a long time. In my opinion, it seems that since the Good Friday Agreement 1998, locals have turned to violence against ethnic minorities.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/3223961.stm

Economic

Employers would say that immigrants are better workers, as they work longer hours with no complaints. However immigrants with poor English will not get jobs, which they interact with members of the public. For example, this is why there are more polish cleaners and now in every street or road there is a man or woman selling either the big issue or the Belfast telegraph.

Cultural Enrichment

Individuals and groups with varying backgrounds, experiences, styles, perceptions, values and beliefs.

www.culturalpartnerships.org/productspubs/glossary.asp

Northern Irelands society and culture has been enriched and transformed by migration. Many of these people have brought knowledge and enjoyment ranging from playing football to the food we eat. It is amazing how things have changed in recent years; just walk down any main street in any city or town in Northern Ireland and you will see how multicultural Northern Ireland has become. The Christmas market at the Belfast City Hall with exotic foods from all over the world is an example of this.

Another example of this is St.Georges market; the market attracts various ethnic communities. All walks of life interact under one roof looking for different types of food, for example, “We sell to people from all communities, but lots of Chinese people come looking for the ducks, while immigrants from east Europe want the lamb for meatballs and mousakka etc.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4190514.stm

I took a trip down to St.Georges market for the first time the other day, to see what different stalls where there and if there where many ethnic communities there. Its amazing to think there are so many hate crimes in Northern Ireland as the atmosphere is friendly and many minorities such as Chinese and polish all interact while looking through hundreds of stalls ranging from, food, fruit, clothes and fish. – St.Georges market is a great place for restaurant owners to buy various foods in bulk for cheap prices.

Social Cohesion

Is the ongoing process of developing a community of shared values, shared challenges and equal opportunities for all.

www.envision.ca/templates/profile.asp

For Belfast to become a united city, equality amongst all needs to be tackled. Workers doing the same job should get paid the same regardless of their race or nationality. Social cohesion can bring less violence among others, less crime and people can learn from one another in a cohesive community.

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Kylie Garcia

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