North West Migrants Forum

Forum visit gives USA students fresh perspective on migration

THE North West Migrants Forum has given a group of American students a better understanding of the migrant situation in Ireland and across Europe.

Twelve students from the all-girls Mount Mary University in Milwaukee have spent the last five days learning about Irish culture and some of the historical figures who have helped shape the island.

They were hosted by Inch House Irish Study Centre, a Donegal project that offers an annual welcome to students and tutors from the USA. Over the years Inch House, located on the shores of Lough Swilly, has been visited by and received lectures from such luminaries as John Hume, Jon McCourt, John Guthrie and the centre’s founder, Tony Johnston.

The latest group of students to make the trip spent time in Galway, Belfast and Sligo where they visited WB Yeats’ grave

Their five days also included a stop off at the North West Migrants Forum where they heard from Al Al-Bawab, the Forum’s Welfare and Integration Officer, its Programmes Manager Naomi Green and Gaëlle Gormley who heads up the refugee support organisation Act for Ref.

They were also addressed by veteran BBC journalist and author Felicity McCall who spoke of her many years reporting The Troubles, including encounters with high profile figures like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.

Journalist and author Felicity McCall speaking to students about her many years of reporting on The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Accompanying the Mount Mary students on their visit to Derry was Eoghan Johnston, Director of Inch House Irish Study Centre.

He said the group thoroughly enjoyed the morning’s discussions.

“It was very good and I think they got a lot from it,” said Eoghan.

“These are American students, many of them from different ethnic backgrounds, so it will have been very interesting for them to hear what Al, Naomi and Gaëlle had to say.

“In America issues like migrants and asylum seekers are used for political gain. So for them to be on the ground in a different country hearing the subject discussed from a different perspective, I have no doubt it will have given them a fresh outlook and much to think about as they prepare to return home to the United States.”

Main photo: Students and tutors from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee along with third from left, Inch House Director Eoghan Johnston, back row centre, journalist Felicity McCall and extreme right, Al Al-Bawab and Gaëlle Gormley of the North West Migrants Forum.