Remarks at the Rally for Toyosi Shitta-Bey

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On Saturday I was asked by the Shitta-Bey family to speak at a rally in Dublin in houour of their son Toyosi who was stabbed to death the previous weekend. 

Friends we are rallied here today to make something positive from the tragic loss of Toyosi Shitta-Bey.

Toy’s killing demonstrates once again how cheap life has become in the Ireland of today. This was a crime against the whole community, an offence against society.

Last night I asked Toyosi’s parents what message they would like me to convey to you.

Their problem is not simply one of race but rather that their colour and features make them easily identifiable as immigrants to Ireland. Every day they endure the resentment that many in our society feel towards immigrants and especially towards those nationalities that are perceived as being a greater burden on the system.

It is these attitudes and perceptions that all of us must work together to change in a globalised world. It is not by legislation that this can be done, but by education.

In this regard our Ministry of Integration has been a singular failure.

Eight years ago, at the Garden of Remembrance where we began our rally today, President Obasanjo of Nigeria laid a wreath.

Today I am appealing to the Nigerian government not to make the same mistake that countless Irish governments made over the decades when we abandoned our own immigrants in foreign lands.

There is much that the Irish and Nigerian governments can do together to change attitudes and perceptions about our countries and our peoples. To open hearts to so much that we share; in our customs, our culture and in sport. To open minds to the richness and diversity that so many nationalities bring to our shores.

Finally, as Toy’s family gather their life together in the weeks and months to come, I am sure you will join me in thanking them for their dignity and forbearance over the past week and to wish them well for the future.

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