Ethnic Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice in the Church of Ireland: results of a survey

Archbishop of Armagh (head of the COI) addresses the General Synod.

We recently conducted a survey on behalf of the Archbishop of Armagh amongst members of the Church of Ireland, seeking views and examples of good practice on Ethnic Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice matters.

The survey results have been shared with the Archbishop and working group, and recommendations are now being developed for the Church to consider.

At the recent General Synod (the annual all-island decision-making meeting of the Church), the Archbishop shared some of his thoughts on the survey results, where he addressed issues of welcome, inclusion and historical acknowledgement.

The Archbishop’s speech (section on survey only – full speech at https://www.ireland.anglican.org/news/11313/general-synod-2022-presidential-address

“You may remember that last year I mentioned a piece of research into ethnic diversity, inclusion and racial justice in the Church of Ireland that I had commissioned. The research project was designed by Dr Lucy Michael (a member of this Synod for the Diocese of Dublin) and in collaboration with a small group of clergy and readers from a range of ethnic backgrounds. The results of the research survey have been written up over the past week or so and will, I hope, form the basis of some practical work closer to the ground which will be planned and rolled out in the coming year. As I have said repeatedly in General Synod and elsewhere, any family (and the Church of Ireland is a family) derives its vigour and interest, not from the family resemblances of its member’s, but from the differences that exist between them, including differences of ethnicity and colour. The results of the survey show that we are indeed a welcoming Church, but also that we are hesitant about what to do after we’ve said “hello”.

To generalise from what I have been able to take in from the hard data of the survey, it seems we are more likely to go on to say “I hope you are able to enjoy the riches we have on offer”, rather than “tell us about your experience of God and your thoughts about his Church and his World”, much less “how can you help us deepen our experience of these things?”. I think the results of the survey show that we recognise the benefits of inclusion, but are uncertain about how to turn that recognition into meaningful participation. We need to do some work on that.

Although perhaps not the finding of the survey with the most far-reaching implications, the one which stands out most prominently is around an insufficient acknowledgment by the Church of our entanglement in the past with slavery. As far as I can tell it’s not a statue-destroying militancy, but a heartfelt desire for an understanding based on accurate facts and an appreciation of the legacy that the gruesome reality of slavery has left. Nor is it about the “enormous condescension of posterity” (there is also an appreciation of the part the Church played in the abolition of the slave trade) but an appeal for clear-eyed appreciation of our actions and inactions in the past, and a willingness to address them.

Up until now this project has been something of a personal initiative of my own but the aim is to embed it much more widely throughout the Church of Ireland. This work is important for a number of reasons, not least perhaps in helping us explain to ourselves why, in a world of migration, the numbers of people of different race and colour, are very low in the Church of Ireland. It is true that many may not be Anglicans when they come to Ireland. But it is known that migrants are much more likely to “shop around” for a spiritual home when they arrive in their adoptive country. It might be useful to know why people have popped their heads around our shop door and decided “it’s not for us”.

But it’s important for a much more fundamental reason, which is that, regardless of numbers, Christian pastoral ministry is about the spiritual well being of every individual. And to do that we need to make the effort to see what other people see and hear what other people hear. It is not only the Anglican Communion that is held together by bonds of affection, but each parish and faith community. And in this instance, as I’ve said repeatedly, it means that we can credibly consider ourselves as fully part of the Catholic Church. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are not free to satisfy all of our appetites but we have a vocation to satisfy the desire for knowledge and understanding which the survey reveals. I look forward to the work which we can do in the year ahead to make this more of a reality.

Arts Council Ireland evaluation of the Equality, Human Rights and Diversity strategy 2019-2022

We are currently carrying out an evaluation, with Navigo Consulting , of the Arts Council of Ireland’s recent Equality, Human Rights and Diversity Strategy.

As part of the evaluation, we are looking to speak with artists and civil society organisations about access to and participation in the arts.

If you’d like to share your feedback with our evaluation team, please get in touch at enquiries@lucymichael.ie

Artists are invited to join one of our focus groups between 17 and 24 May. You can indicate your availability at https://forms.gle/AtwPA1udeEmB5A4MA

Attitudes to immigrants – what value for survey research?

Recently, we commented on the latest IPSOS Global Trends 2021 study, in which researchers posed the folowing statement to members of the Irish public “There are too many immigrants in my country”. Such statements in research surveys are a common way of establishing attitudes amongst the wider public towards migrants. There are, however, some implications of these questions which have to be considered in their interpretation.

Firstly, it is helpful to point out that the statements themselves can be reproduced quite problematically in the media on the publication of such survey results. I found Sorcha Pollak’s approach very welcome in her discussion of these results and I’m grateful for her efforts to interrogate them.

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/not-everyone-shares-the-ireland-of-the-welcomes-sentiment-1.4726234

Who is ‘an immigrant’? As Dr Amanullah DeSondy points out to Sorcha Pollak in this Irish Times article, participants often jump straight to thinking about “a black or brown person” when they think of migrants. So is it problematic that the survey does not ask a person to think of ‘all’ migrants? Given that we commonly have an idea of who is being talked about as ‘immigrants’ in political discourse, or in the chat in the parents group on WhatsApp or down the local pub, it is sensible that the survey seeks to capture exactly that sentiment in the research itself. The presentation of the results, however, leaves something to be desired if it does not address that point. Immigrants from the USA, UK, Australia or New Zealand are rarely complained about in the way that migrants from other countries are.

Far-right political groups (and often some mainstream groups using racism to get elected) point to the supposed drain on public services such as education, health or housing that immigrants produce. The framing of this is key – immigrants ‘drain’, while citizens ‘use’. Public services which are under pressure for other reasons (e.g. a housing crisis) are often the targets of anti-immigrant sentiment. That was evident in emergence of housing protests in Mulhuddart recently, despite County Council assurances that there was no ‘queue-jumping’ by migrants on the housing list. ‘Houses for the Irish’ has been an increasingly heard sentiment here during the housing crisis, as ‘Jobs for the Irish’ was popular during the recession post-2009. The framing of these issues in anti-immigrant sentiment is not only by far-right groups. The motivation for the Citizenship referendum of 2004 came directly from Government, not from the public. During the recession, Government made calls on immigrants to ‘go home’, ignoring that many had made Ireland their home in previous decades with all the intimate connections and long-term investments that this entails.

Attempts in anti-racism campaigns (particularly ‘myth-busting’) to point to the contributions made by migrants to a society have mixed efficacy, since myths about immigration are often adopted as beliefs along with emotional resonance with the issue.

Extreme views on immigration have tended to be relatively consistently captured in public attitude surveys. It is rare in the last decade to see extreme views at more than 10% of any survey on immigration (usually tipping about 6-7% in Europe). These appear to be relatively unaffected by fluctuations in the middle ground.

But there are key moments when public sentiment changes significantly in the middle ground, and surveys can capture that. We noted for example that in the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey results after the 2016 Brexit vote, sentiment towards migrants was much more positive, even in the context of public services under pressure. This followed widespread discussion of the need for migrants in the workforce in media across the range of political viewpoints. Sentiments can also be changed by conditions outside a country’s own policies – in Ireland, for example, half of tabloids sold daily are UK-owned and contain high levels of anti-immigrant sentiment. American-influenced anti-immigrant sentiment is increasingly evident in Irish online forums since 2016, when Trump was elected in the USA.

Another statement put to participants in the IPSOS Global Trends survey which is useful is “people from different backgrounds and ethnic minorities in my country are treated fairly”. This statement, in its broad assertion, captures a range of experiences, which might include hate speech or racist incidents, but also state racisms, which are rarely captured elsewhere. Just 46 per cent of Irish people agreed with the statement this year.

Frequently, the public is ahead of Government on positive sentiment towards immigrants. We have seen that repeatedly in Ireland in recent years, as public campaigns for increased refugee reception and improved conditions for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants have proved popular and effective. The 81 per cent of Irish people who agreed that “my local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together” (compared with just 65 per cent in Germany) reflects other research we have conducted recently that shows white Irish and ethnic minorities mix well in local communities, despite a historically laissez-faire approach by Government to integration.

Crude as they may be, Government look to surveys like the IPSOS Global Trends survey for consistent feedback on their position regarding immigration. Interrogating the utility of the questions posed, and how the results can be interpreted, is a crucial part of informing Goverment or civil society action that might follow.

2021 in review

HUGE THANKS to everyone who worked with us in 2021.

It’s been an incredibly busy year for us, and a very satisfying one! We added two full-time staff this year, and have employed a further 9 project staff. And we hope to continue to further our work on equity, inclusion and justice in 2022 with an expanded team!

Our clients this year in Ireland, the UK and Europe included:

  • International Organisation for Migration
  • Higher Education Authority
  • Department of Education
  • Maynooth University
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • NUI Galway
  • Irish Network Against Racism
  • Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations
  • Irish Deaf Society
  • Irish Council of Civil Liberties and Irish Refugee Council
  • European Network Against Racism
  • EU Fundamental Rights Agency
  • Church of Ireland
  • New Communities Partnership
  • Belfast City Council
  • Fingal County Council
  • Irish Wheelchair Association

Ground Breaking Race Equality Report on Higher Education in Ireland

Published 18 October 2021 by the Higher Education Authority (HEA)

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) today published its new report Race Equality in the Higher Education Sector, authored by Dr Marta Kempny and Dr Lucy Michael. This report captures, for the first time, quantitative and qualitative data on the race and ethnicity of higher education staff as well as their experiences at work.

The report is based on a survey taken by over 3000 staff in higher education institutions across Ireland during December and January. The aim of the survey was to capture the lived experience of HEI staff in relation to race equality. Participants described their experiences of reporting abuse, stereotyping, and at times, the lack of recognition for their work.

Key findings include:

  • More than one-third (35%) of minority ethnic third-level education staff say they have been subjected to racial or ethnic discrimination on campus.
  • Less than half of minority ethnic staff are on full-time contracts, compared to 38% of white Irish and 25% white other not on full time contracts.
  • Just over 17% of minority ethnic staff earn over €75,000, compared to 38% of white Irish and 25% of white other
  • Some 71% said they feel they are treated equally by their colleagues, irrespective of their background
  • 69% said they are treated equally by students, irrespective of their background
  • Few white staff have reported experiencing racial or ethnic discrimination, but all groups reported witnessing racial or ethnic discrimination against minority ethnic staff
  • More than half of respondents (52%) said they had never seen or heard the use of racist language on campus or online, while 27% said they rarely have seen such instances. However, staff across all ethnic groups described witnessing racial or ethnic discrimination against ethnic minority staff.

Recommendations are made in 8 key areas:

  1. Leadership
  2. Supporting Diversity in Staffing
  3. Making Race/Equality Policies Transparent
  4. Reporting Mechanisms
  5. Awareness and Training
  6. Fostering Diversity in HEIs
  7. Supporting Diversity in Student Recruitment
  8. Data Collection

The findings are potentially significant for colleges on a financial basis, given that future research funding for colleges will be influenced by progress on equality. In particular it will help us to understand and address the institutional policies, processes and practices which embed and reproduce inequalities between staff of different backgrounds.

In this way the HEA report is also an important educational resource in highlighting the fact that racism is not just about overtly racist actions, such as racial harassment and hate crime, which unfortunately are still a problem in our society.

Dr Ross Woods, the Senior Manager of the HEA Centre of Excellence for Equality, Diversity and inclusion, said: “Now that we have an evidence base, the HEA can work with institutions to prevent rather than react to problems in this area and to keep pace with wider demographic changes in Irish society.”

The full report is available at: https://hea.ie/2021/10/18/first-ever-race-equality-survey-shows-opportunities-exist-for-higher-education-institutions-to-lead-on-tackling-discrimination/

Dr Lucy Michael, report co-author, appeared on RTE Morning Ireland to launch the report. You can listen back at:

“Is racial discrimination a problem in our third level institutions?”, RTE Radio 1. Available at: https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/22018627/

The report also featured on the front pages of the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Examiner. If you’ve missed the publications around the HEA Report and the responses to it, you can find some of the major headlines below:

The Irish Universities Association has welcomed the publication of the report.

“IUA welcomes publication of HEA Report on Race Equality in Higher Education as universities roll out ‘Let’s Talk About Race in the Higher Education Sector’”, Irish Universities Association. Available at: https://www.iua.ie/press-releases/18-10-21-iua-welcomes-publication-of-hea-report-on-race-equality-in-higher-education-as-universities-roll-out-lets-talk-about-race-in-the-higher-education-sector/ 

 

 

A quick look back… attitudes and racism in Northern Ireland

If you’ve missed the series of publications written for the ARK Research Centre of Queens University Belfast and Ulster University, you can review the most recent reports on attitudes to ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees here.

Irish Launch of new ENAR toolkit on computerised hiring and racial bias

It’s crucial that employers understand and are equipped to address bias in the software used for recruitment and human resource management.

In this new toolkit, we explore the role of human bias and structural discrimination in discriminatory or unethical AI programmes, and provide clear and practical steps to ensure companies have the necessary cultural and technological tools to responsibly digitalise HR systems with the help of intelligent systems.

All welcome to our launch, where we’ll address why it’s essential we tackle algorithmic bias, and how.

Thursday 1 July, 2 – 3.30pm, hosted by INAR – the Irish Network Against Racism

Register online at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEtduqqpz4iGdXW2PWJpE141bUyWGo4vr84

Welcome to Dr Marta Kempny

We are delighted to have Dr Marta Kempny working with us on a new project on race equality in higher education this month. Dr Kempny, an anthropologist from Poland and Northern Ireland, previously worked with us on the UN CERD Civil Society Report in 2019, and on refugee integration research, and we are excited to have her collaboration on this new project.

Polish migrants in Belfast book

I first met Marta when Bryan Fanning and I were preparing the book Immigrants as Outsiders in the Two Irelands. We invited Marta, an expert on the experience of Polish migrants in Northern Ireland, to contribute her research to the book. Her insightful chapter, Polish spaces in a divided city, drew on ethnographic research to examine changing spatial knowledge, mobility and community resources amongst this migrant group over a decade in Belfast. Her 2010 book, Polish Migrants in Belfast: Border Crossing and Identity Construction, is well worth reading.

You can read a recent blog by Marta on the impact of Covid-19 on migrants in Northern Ireland – Contesting lockdown: Backlash to globalisation and right-wing movements

Her latest research, Migrant Lives, Presents and Futures, which aimed to raise awareness about migrant lives in Northern Ireland, particularly in the context of insecurities around Brexit and the pandemic, was recently featured on a podcast. Listen here.

Know Your Rights Guide for International Protection Applicants in Ireland

Know Your Rights: The Rights of Children and Young People - Irish Council  for Civil Liberties

We are compiling a Know Your Rights guide for international protection applicants to be published by ICCL and the Irish Refugee Council.

The Guide explains rights within the protection process, under the EU Reception Directive, and a range of broader rights that apply to everyone in Ireland, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to protest, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to education and the right to earn a livelihood.

We would like to hear from asylum seekers, refugees or anyone working with international protection applicants on the contents of the Guide. You can get in touch with us at enquiries@lucymichael.ie

Join a focus group – we are running a series of focus group discussions with international protection applicants in May. Join a discussion by emailing enquiries@lucymichael.ie

Download information about the Guide and our focus groups here