Cork Migrant Centre youth mentor Raphael Olympio.

‘You don’t want to fight hate with hate’

“Hatred and anger towards migrants is louder than I've ever seen or experienced in my whole life in Ireland.”

The words of Cork Migrant Centre (CMC) youth mentor Raphael Olympio ahead of tomorrow’s Anti-Racism Youth Led summit at City Hall.

Running from 1-5pm tomorrow, Friday, the summit will be the second of its kind to take place in Cork city.

The event will focus on topics of racism and discrimination with a goal to bring together people from all walks of life, including service providers, policymakers, and educators, to have a conversation led by young people about positive change.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, CMC youth mentor Raphael Olympio, who moved to Ireland from Togo when he was 6, said he feels there has been both progression and regression in the fight against racism in Ireland since last year’s summit.

“There's a lot happening with the far-right movement and with anti-migration sentiments; there seems to have been a rise with that,” said Mr Olympio.

“It's quite upsetting to see because, on the other hand, there's more people being visible with anti-racism, especially in universities and educational systems – you can see a lot of teachers are proactively doing things in their schools.”

“But then it just feels like the anti-migrant sentiment seems louder currently, so it's almost drowning out or dampening the success of what people are doing in our communities,” he added.

At this year’s summit, organisers want to highlight the positive work being done in communities around Cork and how racism can be best addressed at a local level.

Mr Olympio said that, instead of “reinventing the wheel”, CMC has been taking inspiration from people that have already been successful in tackling racism.

“Rome wasn't built in a day, and I think we need to continue to foster dialogue around what is happening,” continued Mr Olympio.

“It feels like, even up to a governmental level, nobody's addressing anti-migrant hate. We need to continue having the conversations and looking for practical yet understandable approaches in dealing with it because you don't want to fight hate with hate.

“We need to come from a place of understanding. There's a reason why hatred is going towards migrants; it's because there are issues in that community where the hate is coming from that need to be addressed as well. Maybe they feel unheard, and I think there needs to be a safe space where conversation can be had,” he added.

Asked how he might describe Ireland to in immigrant entering the country for the first time, he said: “Look, I've grown up here and I've experienced living in Ireland for over 20 years. I've had my ups and downs. There have been circumstances where I've been treated as less than a human being, but there's also been circumstances where I've been uplifted and encouraged and empowered and embraced by the people of Ireland. You're going to get a mix and you're going to be overwhelmed by both. But overall, I've been overwhelmed by more welcome and love but there are bad eggs here.”

All are welcome to attend tomorrow’s Anti-Racism Youth Led summit, kicking off at 1pm at City Hall.